Minnesota lawmakers will find themselves in a very unenviable position when they return to St. Paul in January. For the first time in nearly a decade, the state is projecting a budget deficit.
A huge budget deficit.
According to the projection released last Tuesday by the state, the shortfall is expected to reach $1.95 billion. That's much higher than originally predicted and much higher than the state's budget reserve. Overall, lawmakers will need to cut spending and/or increase taxes by roughly $1.3 billion to offset the projected shortfall.
It will take an extraordinary tripartisan effort to deal with this deficit.
Let's hope lawmakers are up to the task. One quick indicator will be whether these elected officials are able to resist the temptation to spew partisan rhetoric at one another. There was enough of that this past legislative session.
Now is not the time to second-guess past legislative action. Now is not the time to talk about the what-ifs. Now is not the time to minimize the task ahead.
There are no quick or easy solutions. The economy isn't expected to rebound quickly. And few Minnesotans, if any, will be immune from the economic downturn that's responsible for the projected budget shortfall.
The upcoming legislative session is supposed to focus on bonding, but it's now clear that coping with the projected deficit is the most pressing issue facing lawmakers. ...
-- Mankato Free Press
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