The Minnesota Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to slash state spending on government agencies in the face of the state's $4.6 billion budget deficit.
In passing its state government finance bill 59-6, the Senate cut about $44 million from spending for the next two-year budget period.
Under the measure, sponsored by Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, the Legislature itself would take a $6.8 million reduction, the Attorney General's office $2.4 million, the Revenue Department $8.2 million and the Office of Enterprise Technology $7 million.
One provision would prevent the governor's office from covering some staff costs through other state agencies. Under "interagency agreements," agencies pay a portion of a gubernatorial staff member's salary for work the person does for them. Detractors say the practice makes the governor's budget look leaner than it really is. The bill passed Monday would require the governor's office to pay all its staff expenses but also would shift $724,000 to the office to help cover the costs.
Before the Senate voted on the $641 million bill, spirited debate came on an amendment proposed by Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, seeking to allow slot machines at race tracks like Canterbury Downs. Day, who has championed the "racino" idea in the past, said the move would help the state deal with its deficit.
"This would give you a billion dollars," he said, speaking of the revenues he said would come from the amendment.
The measure failed on a 41-25 vote, with opponents disputing how much the move would actually bring in and Betzold calling it bad policy.
"You don't use gambling to solve personal problems and you don't use gambling to solve state problems," he said.
Two other gambling-related proposals from Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, also were voted down. One sought to add slot machines at bars to Day's amendment and the other to permit slots at bars and restaurants.
Jake Grovum is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.