A pre-session conversation with state legislators Kenric Scheevel and Greg Davids
By John TorgrimsonMonday, January 7, 2002Editor’s note: The Minnesota Legislature will open their 2002 session on January 29. While the primary business at hand will be to work out a Bonding Bill, the legislature must also deal with a number of issues, including the $2 billion budget deficit, legislative redistricting and other hot button topics like a stadium for professional sports.
Journal Editor, John Torgrimson sat down with State Representative Greg Davids and State Senator Kenric Scheevel on Wednesday, January 2, for a far-ranging discussion on the upcoming session and other state political issues, including the 2002 elections.
Journal: The State of Minnesota faces a $2 billion deficit. Last spring there was a surplus. Where does the state go from here?
Scheevel: The first question we need to answer is where did this come from. And the answer very bluntly is the national recession. We had anticipated the economy slowing down last spring and left about $235 million on the bottom line to make sure there was a little cushion. What we had not anticipated is the September 11 terrorist attacks and the effect that would have on the economy.
We have roughly a seven percent hole in our budget. I think it is imperative that we face the shortfall as soon as possible. And the reason is, every month that goes by that same $2 billion needs to be spread across fewer and fewer months. So a short fall of seven percent today becomes a short fall of 14 percent by July.
We have over a billion dollars in reserves that we can tap. That puts the shortfall down to about four percent. I think we can manage a four percent shortfall without going for tax increases; you have to prioritize programs, you have to review some of those obsolete programs that get overlooked until the budget gets tight. So I see it as an opportunity to tighten the belt a bit. There will be some tough choices, but I think we can weather what I consider to be a relatively short-term dip in our economy.
Constitutionally, we have to balance the budget. We cannot run a deficit, even short-term, like the federal government can. And I think this is good because it forces us to stay within fiscal balance all the time.
Journal: What is the process on this? Is this something the governor and the administration comes back to the legislature with - “okay, .....[Read the Rest]