We are at the home stretch in the 2009 legislative session and with two days left, the end result is still very much up in the air.
By Wednesday of this week, the Legislature finalized and sent to the Governor all major budget bills to stabilize our budget. In putting our budget together, we spent months listening to Minnesotans about their budget priorities in order to balance the budget with Minnesota values. The bills we sent to the Governor cut spending in nearly every budget area, held school funding flat, protected jobs, and prevented closure of hospitals and nursing homes by raising reasonable revenue.
After these bills had been sent, the Governor called a press conference on Thursday in which he indicated he will sign most of the bills, but will line-item veto provisions he does not like. He will then implement his own budget through a process known as unallotment – he will choose what areas of the budget will be protected, and what ones will be cut.
To provide some context, in the last 30 years, governors have used their power to unallot only four times, and two of those times were by Governor Pawlenty. If chooses the go-it-alone strategy of unallotment, it will be 10 times larger than any other unallotment in state history.
What makes the Governor’s proposal most concerning is that he has not told the public where he would make deep cuts. If the final budget resembles his original budget proposal from March, hospitals would be cut deeply, property taxes would rise significantly, and thousands of Minnesotans will likely lose their job.
On Thursday night, the Governor began implementing his strategy, making painful cuts to health care through a $380 million line-item veto of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), eliminating health care coverage for over 30,000 of Minnesotans earning $8,000 a year or less. In testimony yesterday, DHS Commissioner Ludeman describes those served in GAMC as chronically mentally and/or physically ill, homeless and poor. The veto will result in the loss of over $200 million from Minnseota hospitals, which will cause job losses and severe cuts in services. In our area, Northfield Hospital and Long Term Care Center will take a significant hit.
I don’t believe it’s in the best interest of Minnesota to see our state budget resolved behind closed doors without public input. In the final days of session, I will keep working to reach consensus on a budget solution that Minnesotans can support. That means stabilizing our budget, maintaining a commitment to our schools, preserving our hospitals, and retaining jobs.
As always, please contact me with your questions, concerns and input in these critical final days. I also encourage you to contact the Governor (651-296-3391) to provide him with your input on his plan to balance the budget behind closed doors.