Senators approved a bill Wednesday afternoon that would pay to operate state government for the next two years, cutting departments' budgets by more than a third.
After hours of debate and lacerating criticism by members of the DFL minority, the third budget bill approved by the Senate passed by a party-line vote. On Tuesday night, the Senate passed the first two budget bills of the session, involving jobs and economic development and public safety.
The Senate voted to spend just over $600 million on state government operations and veterans programs. It amounts to a 34.2 percent cut from forcasted spending during the next two-year budget cycle.
Most agencies funded by the bill would receive a reduction of between 5 and 15 percent in their operating budgets over the next two years. The bill would also call for a 15 percent reduction in the state’s workforce by 2015.
DFLers assailed the fact that state employees' pay will be frozen, their health insurance costs will increase and that the bill's financial assumptions were based on "pixiedust," in the words of Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.
"This bill is a stiff-arm to the state government," Dibble said. "It kills jobs. This is going to put us backwards."
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Cook, said the bill amounts to "cutting jobs in a jobless economy. This bill is another assault on public employees."
But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, said it"is about reform and reform is change. It will create sustainability of this great state." Parry said Gov. Mark Dayton is likely to veto the bill.
Overall, the plan is similar to the original House proposal of $601.6 million. The Senate version of the bill proposed much deeper spending cuts. It also contains a handful of state government overhaul initiatives designed to save the state money.
Next up: the massive health and human services budget bill.
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During an MPR interview in front a live audience, Dayton reiterated his support for middle class tax cuts, a big boost in transportation funding and universal prekindergarten during next year's legislative session, all priorities he was unable to achieve in the 2015 session.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto, reeling from a new law allowing counties to hire private audit firms to review their finances, said in a statement she has hired outside counsel "to help me assess the implications of this law and its impact on the core function of auditing."