By Mike Kaszuba
Filling a key job within his new administration, Gov.-elect Mark Dayton announced Thursday that Jim Schowalter would be his top budget official.
Schowalter will head the state’s Minnesota Management and Budget Office, where he had served as a deputy under former head Tom Hanson. Schowalter is expected to play a pivotal role as the incoming DFL governor, and Republican majorities in the House and Senate, tackle a projected $6 billion state budget shortfall.
Dayton, who will be sworn in as governor on Monday, said he planned to name several top agency bosses before the end of the week.
"At this time of serious budget crisis, I consider continuity and credibility in that position to be of paramount importance for the people of Minnesota, for the legislature, and for myself," Dayton said in a statement.
The selection drew praise from incoming House Speaker Kurt Zellers. "I think Jim is an outstanding choice," said Zellers, who will be the top Republican when the party takes control of the House next week. "He's always been someone who both sides of the aisle can work with and trust."
Schowalter was named deputy MMB commissioner earlier this year, and coordinated the agency's financial, debt management, human resources and labor activities. Dayton said Schowalter would also continue in his role as the state's point person on cash management and federal stimulus reporting.
Schowalter previously served as an assistant commissioner and state budget director, and since 2004 has led the state's budget process.
"Nothing should be less partisan than our state's financial and personnel management," Schowalter said in a statement. "Governor-elect Dayton and I share this belief."