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Legislators from region have mixed feelings on gov.'s plans

ST. PAUL -- After wading through about a third of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 65-page supplemental budget on Monday, Sen. Joe Gimse said there was "nothing specifically" he could find to change in the proposal.

He wasn't necessarily happy about some of the cuts, like reductions in local government aid that will hit many of the small towns he represents. "Of course, that's an ouch," said Gimse, referring to the $250 million slated to come from city and county aid.

But overall, Gimse, R-Willmar, said he approves of the governor's "across the board" response to the deficit.

He's also pleased some of the "adjustments" were moved to the next biennium. With a good economy, Gimse said Pawlenty's forward thinking will result in a debt that's manageable.

Those future adjustments hit a sore spot with Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls.

Pawlenty is "trying to encumber future" legislators and force the state's grandchildren to pay for things that the governor doesn't want to pay for now, said Kubly, adding that tax revenue is "not a dirty word, in my opinion, but a way we do things together that we can't do on our own."

Kubly also doesn't like it that Pawlenty, a constant critic of the federal budget, is relying on $387 million in one-time federal stimulus funding that is not even a sure thing.

"We leave in spring but won't know until fall if we'll get those dollars," said Kubly, adding that Pawlenty is "treading on pretty thin ice" by including the federal funds in his state proposal.

Kubly said there was not much in Pawlenty's proposal that he liked but said he expects the DFL will "find some pieces we'll support and others we won't."

Considering that "all of the fat is gone" in many state agencies and that Pawlenty won't increase tax revenues, Kubly said he didn't see how the Legislature could avoid making many deep cuts.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said in a news release that he was pleased veteran programs actually saw an increase, but he was not happy with the hit that the state's agricultural programs would take in Pawlenty's budget.

"If all the state agencies are cut at the same rate, then fair is fair," said Juhnke, chairman of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee.

Juhnke said bipartisan cooperation is crucial and his committee will give Pawlenty's proposal a thorough look. "I'm hopeful we can reach agreement on cuts that do less damage to necessary programs, protect food safety and also protect jobs," he said.

In an e-mail, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said the Legislature faces "huge challenges this session, especially as we spare K-12 education and our veterans from cuts."

Urdahl said the proposal is "just the governor's recommendations and it serves as a starting point for crafting plans."

Gimse said it is too early to predict if there would be a budget agreement reached between Pawlenty and the Legislature, or if there would be another stalemate this year.

"The DFL knows where the governor stands," said Gimse. "Let's move the ball forward and try to get this resolved."

But when it comes to compromising, Kubly said the governor's word is "no good" because he's "always moving" the target when the other side agrees to a concession. "It's like negotiating with someone who doesn't understand they've made an agreement," said Kubly.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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