Senator Roger Reinert and Mayor Don Ness today voiced their concerns over the Republican budget bill, introduced Tuesday, and the consequences the bill will have for the city of Duluth, its residents and students.
“First, we need to see a complete budget proposal-this bill addresses less than $800 million or so of a $6.4 billion problem. A piecemeal approach won’t work for our state. We need to take a more balanced approach.” Sen. Reinert said. “In addition, this bill continues the Pawlenty legacy of pushing the state’s budget problems on to the backs of our local communities.”
“The city was very proactive in our budget approach this year,” said Mayor Don Ness. “We acknowledge that the state is in a budget crisis, so we anticipated cuts to LGA and planned accordingly. But we did not anticipate this level of cuts.”
The 2011 City of Duluth municipal budget was based on an anticipated cut of $1.5 million in LGA. But under this proposal, the city of Duluth would see a reduction of over $3.8 million.
To put the figure in perspective, the entire budget of the Duluth library system – which has already been a victim of cuts in past years – is $3.6 million. While the system serves the entire region, it is only supported by dollars from Duluth. “Our cities are willing to do their part in addressing the budget crisis,” said Senator Reinert. “But we need to make sure that equal burdens are being placed on all parties. Regional centers like Duluth have a broad impact on the surrounding communities.” Mayor Ness agreed. “Duluth has been thoughtful in dealing with this problem, which is why the total 2011 budget is already $6 million less than the 2007 budget,” he said.
Another concern for Duluth residents is the reduction in the renter’s credit from 19 percent to 15 percent. “This has been a priority for low-income people in Duluth. They are already living paycheck to paycheck, and they depend on that small credit to help make ends meet,” said Senator Reinert.
Sen. Reinert also voiced concern over substantial cuts to higher education. “The bill cuts nearly $200 million from our colleges and universities,” he noted. “Over the past ten years, we’ve seen tuition more than double at the U of M and MnSCU schools. These cuts would drive tuition even higher, making college even less affordable for low- and middle-income families. If we want to invest in the future, we need a better plan.”
As the session moves forward, Sen. Reinert said he will take a close look at the ramifications that the proposed cuts would have on the area, but is eager to see a complete budget proposal and to be engaged in the hard decisions ahead.
“We know we have a tough struggle ahead,” he said. “I will look closely at this proposal as well as the Governor’s budget. Minnesotans know it’s time to make honest decisions about what we want and how we pay for it.”