Senate approves steep cuts to state government

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  • May 18, 2011 - 1:23 PM

Minnesota state government would get a lot leaner under a budget proposal that passed the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday.

After more than four hours of debate, the Republican-controlled Senate approved a $600 million state government finance bill that would reduce the state workforce by 15 percent and impose steep cuts to state agencies.

The proposal, which was approved 37 to 29, cuts nearly $275 million more from those areas than DFL Gov. Mark Dayton wants.

The GOP-controlled House still must approve the budget before it is sent to the governor, who is likely to veto the bill.

“This bill is about reform … and innovation,” said state Sen. Mike Parry, chairman of the State Government, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Democrats said the Senate booked $279 million in savings that can’t be proven and could leave the state in a bind if the money doesn’t come through.

“There’s still funny money in this budget,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. “It’s pixie dust.”

The budget also calls on Dayton to cut another $94 million, but doesn’t say from where. The judicial branch, the departments of military and veteran affairs and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are exempted from the mandatory workforce reductions.

State Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, called the bill “an assault on public employees.”

Parry described the cuts as hard, but said they are necessary to ensure government is affordable for years to come.

Legislators must finish their work by their Monday deadline or face a special legislative session to resolve the state's $5 billion deficit.

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