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Gov. Pawlenty to announce $470 million Minnesota cuts coming today

Gov. Tim Pawlenty said recovering from $5.3 billion in state budget shortfalls will require cuts in state spending, some of which "will be very difficult." Pawlenty signaled he plans to propose around $4 billion in cuts during the next budget period. Tribune photo by Scott Wente

ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty balances the state budget this afternoon, but promises to preserve military, veterans, public safety and K-12 education programs.

"Those areas this afternoon will not be cut, but others will be," the Minnesota governor said on his weekly radio show this morning.

Under state law, the governor must drain the state budget reserve before he makes cuts to balance the budget.

Pawlenty said his actions later today will total $470 million. The official deficit is $426 million for the rest of the current budget, which ends June 30, but State Economist Tom Stinson has said the deficit actually could grow up to $70 million more than that figure.

The current budget problem is just part of the whole picture. In total, the state budget is nearly $5.3 billion unbalanced. The Legislature and Pawlenty will work together to balance the next two-year budget.

A St. Paul caller to Pawlenty's show said that state payments to local governments will affect public safety, one of the governor's priorities. However, Pawlenty said, local governments do not need to take money away from public safety programs right away.

"If the first thing you have to do is lay off or affect public safety, that would be a misplaced priority in my view," he said.

Pawlenty suggested that cities and counties take money out of reserves before making public safety cuts.

The governor confirmed that local government payments will be part of his budget cuts, but he said they will not be a big part of what governments receive from states.

"In most cases, dramatically less than 5 percent" of state payments will be lost, he said.

Cities and counties have objected to state aid cuts, claiming they already have cut their budgets to the bare bones and cannot handle more cuts.

Pawlenty said cuts are needed because state revenue has fallen after the Minnesota economy "tanked."

"Unlike the federal government, the state of Minnesota has to balance its budget," Pawlenty said.

Already, Pawlenty has ordered his agencies to cut spending 10 percent for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.