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Editorial: State's budget is headed to overtime

Minnesota's Legislature received a double-barreled message Thursday night as listening sessions opened across the state.

The message was clear -- do not reduce state programs to reduce state spending and do not raise taxes to balance the budget.

Now that is a rather unrealistic balancing act.

In a series of meeting, including in Willmar, legislators gathered Thursday and Friday to hear citizen input on addressing the projected $4.8 billion state deficit. The deficit challenge may grow to as much as $7 billion by the March 3 state estimate due to the slumping economy.

Whatever the state deficit figure, the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty will face a daunting task of balancing the state budget. There are no easy solutions.

Pawlenty's budget plan includes no new taxes and precludes cuts to K-12 education. Instead, he proposed $1.5 billion in cuts to health and human services program, $468 million in reductions in local government aid and $313 million slashed in higher education. He will revise his proposal following the March 3 estimate.

The DFL-controlled Legislature will be preparing its budget proposal in the coming months.

The Legislature and governor will then try to find agreement by the end of May. Right!

Get prepared for a special session to solve the state budget deficit.