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Minnesota deficit: $5.2 billion

ST. PAUL - A historic budget deficit of $5.2 billion faces Minnesota policymakers.

The deficit for the two-year budget that begins July 1 will be $4.8 billion, The Associated Press reported, with the remaining $426 million coming out of the budget in the next six months.

When Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office in 2003, he faced a then-record nearly $4.6 billion deficit.

The Minnesota Constitution requires the state have a balanced budget. Minnesota's two-year budget is about $34 billion.

The Republican governor and others have warned the budget picture will be grim and is, in part, a result of the bad economy. Even before he saw today's deficit numbers, Pawlenty called the problem historic.

Pawlenty said he plans to meet with Democratic legislative leaders soon to see if they can work out a solution to the current budget problem. If not, he added, he will have to take action on his own.

The governor will outline his 2009-11 budget proposal in January. The Democrat-controlled Legislature, which returns to work Jan. 6, will offer its own budget plans, probably in March. Some lawmakers already are making budget-cutting proposals, including privatizing the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A spending freeze in most state budget areas also has been floated. Pawlenty already has asked his agency chiefs to give him a spending plan lower than the current budget.