The Minnesota House is poised to pass a bill today that would cut $1 billion in spending. Most of the cuts target higher education and local government aid. But one fifth of the cuts, $200 million, aren’t identified. Instead, the bill says:
“By March 31, 2011, the commissioner of Management and Budget must allocate a reduction of $199,236,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, to general fund appropriations made to executive branch agencies as defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 16A.011, subdivision 12a. Reductions in fiscal year appropriations cancel to the general fund. Executive branch agencies must cooperate with the commissioner of management and budget in developing and implementing these reductions.”
Supporters of this measure say they’re targeting a “Christmas in June” approach that they say state department and agency heads do at the end of every fiscal year. They say departments spend down their budgetary allotments so they don’t have to give the money back or potentially find future budget cuts.
But the measure also does something else. It gives budget cutting authority to Gov. Mark Dayton. GOP Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, who is authoring the bill says she can’t remember it ever being done before. Neither can DFL Rep. Lynn Carlson, the House DFL budget lead who has been in the Legislature for 39 years.
GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he preferred to look at the measure a different way.
“We’re going to help you (to Gov. Dayton),” Zellers said. “You decide where you want to do it. We’ll just set the number for you.”
The move comes less than two years after the DFL controlled House signed on to a lawsuit that challenged then Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s unilateral budget cuts. The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed that Gov. Pawlenty’s so-called unallotments went too far.
Now, Republicans in both the House and Senate are willingly giving up control regarding their power of the purse to Gov. Dayton (Note: The bill does forbid Dayton from cutting K12 funds and special education or further reduce funding for MnSCU and the University of Minnesota).
Update: A staffer with the Minnesota House sent along a note saying the House passed a law in 2010 that required MMB’s Commissioner to cut $3 million from state government by 2011.