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Editorial: Deficit will bring changes for all

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West central Minnesota cities and counties and the state will all face challenges as the state of Minnesota seeks to solve a $6.2 billion budget deficit for the next biennium.

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On Tuesday, Republican legislature leaders announced phase 1 of their budget cut plan, including cuts in local government aid, college funding and social service grants.

Under the LGA cuts, Willmar could lose $568,218 and other cities in the region could lose an estimated $50,000 to $250,000 depending on their size.

On Wednesday, the Republican legislative leaders announced phase 2 to require the state to reduce the ranks and payroll costs of state government through layoffs, retirements, furloughs, wage and hiring freezes and pension restructuring.

This move would lead to reducing state employee numbers by nearly 5,000 by 2015.

These various budget reductions will have impact at the city, county and state service levels around the region.

The reality is that Minnesota's costs are exceeding current revenues and the state budget must be balanced as required by law. Tough decisions will have to be made on both sides of the political aisle.

We all are going to have to make sacrifices and/or decisions.

- Citizens will learn to live with less government service -- longer time to get to court, fewer government office hours and less program funding.

- Citizens will learn to pay more for college tuition, service fees, licenses and other government services.

- Government employees will have to learn to work with less -- in salaries and benefits, just as private employees have done in recent years.

- Public unions will learn that their contracts rates, benefits and pension levels no longer are sustainable.

No one likes less snow plowing, higher college tuition, less K-12 funding, lower wage scales, higher fees or higher taxes.

Ultimately, the old maxim that "there is no free lunch" rings true.

Every Minnesotan has a stake in the current $6.2 billion deficit -- for the final budget plan will affect each one of us.

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