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Reality Check: The Budget Battle Ads

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL (WCCO) – More budget meetings at the state capitol, but there was very little progress. So groups with an interest in the fight are turning to TV, in an attempt to win the battle of public opinion.

But when that happens, it’s time for a Reality Check.

The air war has begun. Liberals, conservatives and political committees are spending more than a million dollars in the next few weeks, including the conservative Taxpayer’s League. They claim republicans are spending a billion dollars more on education.

Their ad states, “Our state legislators passed a balanced budget that raises spending by 12 percent. Their budget spends a billion more on education.”

This is FALSE.

Minnesota spent $13.8 billion on schools last year, including $500 million in stimulus funding to keep teachers from getting laid off.

This year’s budget is $14.3 billion. So there is an increase — $466 million.

BUT … that’s NOT THE WHOLE STORY.

State law requires automatic spending hikes for every new student enrolling in a Minnesota school. And this year, there are 16,000 more kids than last year.

Adding it all up — the education bill spends about $40 million less on schools than it did before.

Here’s what you NEED TO KNOW.

Republicans say they’re making up that difference through school reforms, and other cuts, including $100 million in cuts to help schools integrate and $50 million in cuts to programs for special education students.

This is particularly tough. Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the republican education bill, calling it “extreme.”

Republicans say they’re giving Dayton almost all he wants.

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