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West central Minn. lawmakers split on Dayton veto of budget bill

WILLMAR -- The response to Gov. Dayton's veto of a bill to cut $924 million from the state budget drew the expected differing opinions from local legislators.

"Disappointed," was how Rep. Bruce Vogel summed up his view.

"Thankful," was the response from Rep. Andrew Falk.

Vogel, a Republican from Willmar, said he's disappointed Dayton did not give the budget-cutting process supported in the bill a chance.

"This is a first step in trying to solve this budget problem," Vogel said. "It was a good step in the right direction."

Falk, DFL-Murdock, said the Republican-backed bill was a "piecemeal ap-proach" that "hacked away at a few things" but did not offer a total budget solution. "I'm thankful Governor Dayton vetoed it," Falk said.

The bill, approved in the House on party-line votes, would have cut $824 million from the next two-year state budget and $100 million from the budget that ends June 30.

Although the cuts would have been an extension of past unallotment of aid to counties and cities, money from the federal stimulus bill helped fill in the financial gaps last year. That federal money is not there any more.

Vogel said that state government "can't keep growing" and cuts need to be made.

Falk said the "numbers don't add up" if legislators promise to protect education, elderly, veterans, roads and bridges yet only cut the budget without also raising new revenue.

He said a compromise is necessary that has to include deep cuts as well as some kind of a tax increase.

Both agree they are eager to see the details of Dayton's budget proposal on Tuesday.

Vogel said he's pleased that a bill to speed up the permitting process by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was approved by the House, saying it will help businesses grow, including local agricultural expansions.

He disputes a claim made by the MPCA that the agency will need additional staff to process permits within the 150-day goal stated in the bill.

Vogel said the agency just needs to work faster.

"We feel they're just dragging their feet too much," he said. "It's just a matter of forcing people to get it done."

Falk said he agrees with the need to improve permitting and environmental review, but says an executive order issued by Dayton already does that. Besides, he said, many of the permitting delays happen because businesses make change orders in their proposals that require additional review.

Falk said a provision in the bill is unfair to rural districts because court cases related to environmental review would be heard by the Court of Appeals in St. Paul, rather than in local district courts.

That could increase legal costs and reduce opportunities for citizens to voice their concerns about local projects, he said.

Vogel said he's not worried that the bill would result in any short cuts that would cause environmental harm.

Another bill that passed the House would provide a fast track for professionals to become licensed teachers. Vogel voted for it, calling it "another tool" for schools to use to get qualified teachers in the classroom. He said he has spoken to area school superintendents who are not opposed to the plan.

Falk said the provision would be a "slap in the face" for Minnesota's high standard of education.


Carolyn Lange

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

(320) 894-9750