Legislators are back in their districts this weekend, charged by at least a few of their caucus leaders to help their constituents understand that the state isn't experiencing an ordinary, every-few-years variety of budget deficit. DFL caucus leaders told reporters Tuesday that they doubt Minnesotans fully grasp how big this year's state money problem is.

Some historic data tell the tale. A comparison of state revenues available from one biennium to the next, going back a half-century, was prepared by state finance officials and distributed by House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Through most of those 50 years, the increase ran into double digits. Twice, once in the late 1980s and in the biennium that will end this June 30, biennium-to-biennium revenues were essentially flat.

The forecast for 2010-11 is revenue shrinkage of 4.75 percent, compared with 2008-9. That's without precedent in modern times. 

In other words, this weekend is not a good time to ask your legislator for more government spending.