Budget talks; please share your thoughts

The next step in the state budget process is here. The Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives recently released their budget targets and the budget deadline (budget bills must be out of their committee of origin), is set for March 25th. Legislators, legislative staff, administrative staff, advocacy groups and citizens will spend the next week hammering out budget details and discussing possible impacts of funding changes.

Two weeks ago, Republican senators laid out their plan to balance the $5 billion state budget shortfall. Their goal is to solve the deficit with the following funding reductions:

· 16% cut to the Higher Education System;

· 11.4% cut to Agriculture and Rural Economics;

· 29% cut to Environment, Energy and Commerce;

· 47.2% cut to Jobs and Economic Development;

· 16% cut to Transportation;

· 3.5% cut to Judiciary and Public Safety;

· 53% cut to State Government; and

· 9.6% cut to Property Tax Aids and Credits.

Their target also includes a 2.5% increase to the K-12 education system and a 5.9% increase to Health and Human Services. Unfortunately, this additional funding does not keep up with increased demand and several programs and services will suffer as a result. Visit Minnesota.publicradio.org and search for “Senate Targets” to see their target press conference and spreadsheet.

I encourage you to get involved with the process. To stay plugged in, visit the Senate’s website at http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/. The website provides updated committee schedules to help you track the issues important to you as well as access to a live web feed of Senate committees.

You can get involved by writing a Letter to the Editor with your thoughts or contacting Governor Dayton (Mailing Address: Office of the Governor, 130 State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Telephone: 651-201-3400). You can also give me a call or visit my office. I have met with many constituents this session, and I thank everyone that has taken the time to stop by.

Once a budget is passed by the Senate and House of Representatives, negotiations will begin between the Legislature and Governor Dayton (The Governor’s budget can be found at http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/). The differences in the two approaches will be significant and the final agreement will take some time. Again, I encourage you to get involved. Public opinion on the budget can make a big difference; let your voice be heard.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions about any issue. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.

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Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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