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State to delay more school aid

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Management and Budget department this morning told schools that the state will delay payments to them this spring because of a cash shortage, legislative Democrats say.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Pawlenty administration, but the governor's top finance officials earlier told lawmakers they were considering the payment delays this spring because revenues flowing into the state could fall short of being enough to pay for bills.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party education leaders planned to talk to the media about the development early this afternoon.

In a meeting almost two weeks ago, DFL legislators complained about the possibility of delaying more school payments.

"It is not just robbing the school districts, it is slapping them in the face for being fiscally responsible," Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said.

All or part of state payments to schools in March, April and May could be delayed until June. State law exempts from delays a handful of districts with small budget reserves. School districts already are forced to borrow money, and pay interest, just to keep budgets in the black because the state is delaying other school payments due to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's summer budget actions.

Last summer, Pawlenty delayed $1.8 billion in school payments as part of a $2.7 billion budget-cutting action. Since then, the state learned it faces another $1.2 billion deficit and a still deeper deficit is possible. The delays schools learned about today are on top of earlier delays.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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.