Republicans proposed a constitutional amendment Tuesday -- the fourth they have offered so far -- that would place strict limits on state spending that they say would spare Minnesotans from the budget agonies they are currently suffering.

"We can't just continue to send the bill to the taxpayers," said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, the amendment's chief author. "It sets some ground rules for the Legislature. The first reform is to live within our means. The second reform is to make sure this never happens again."

The chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, said he doesn't "like amending the constitution, but this is really good. This is going to help us live within our means."

If the Republican-controlled Legislature places the amendment on the 2012 ballot and voters approve, it would limit state spending to 98 percent of actual revenues, with remaining money dedicated to a budget reserve.

It would, Ortman said guarantee that "unrestricted spending will never again cripple the state's economy."

As they have every time Republicans have proposed a constitutional amendment, DFLers dismissed this one as a stunt, meant to distract voters from the looing impasse over the state's $5 billion deficit. This time, they branded it as hypocritical, saying Republicans uinder former Gov. Tim Pawlenty never had a budget that would have satisfied the amendment's criteria.

Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, called it "a do as I say, not as I do" proposal.

Other amendments working their way through the Legislature are ones that would ban same-sex marriage, require voters to submit a photo ID before casting their ballots and a House proposal that would require a three-fifths vote by legislators to raise taxes. 

"They're just kind of throwing everything up in the air," Bakk said.


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