The deal reached between Republicans and Democrats in the late hours last Friday night cuts spending for the remaining six months of this fiscal year by about $39 billion. It took lawmakers all weekend and all of Monday to turn the painstakingly negotiated agreement into legislative language.
Now, the specifics of those spending cuts are available. While details of exactly how the cuts will affect Minnesota still aren’t available, the cuts are wide ranging and will be felt by the public, said one Democratic staffer.
Minnesota will likely see a decline in federal assistance for local law enforcement. Two programs that help pay for equipment and salaries for police departments across the country will lose over $600 million in funding at a time when state and local budgets remain under pressure.
One of those programs has helped hire more than 1,400 police officers in Minnesota since the mid-1990s, according to DFL Sen. Al Franken’s office. But the office wasn’t able to provide estimates on how many officers might be affected by the budget deal.
Across the state, thousands of small projects that would have been financed by congressional earmarks won’t happen. Members of DFL Rep. Betty McCollum’s office pointed to the Twin Cities Central Corridor transit project as the kind of program that gets its start with earmark funding to pay for feasibility studies.
Other programs affected by the cuts include the WIC program which helps nursing mothers and children. It fed more than 240,000 Minnesotans in 2009. But even with the reduced funding, the program does not anticipate any recipients will receive less food, according to Sen. Franken’s office.
Money to help people with low incomes pay for heat was also cut as part of the deal.
A wolf control program based in Grand Rapids is reportedly close to running out of money, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
Minnesota will also probably see its high speed rail plans derailed. House Republicans managed to cut off spending for one of President Obama’s signature initiatives at a time when Gov. Mark Dayton was hoping to secure funds to connect the Twin Cities to Chicago.
Staffers from Sen. Franken’s office said they hoped there would be other funding opportunities for high speed rail later this year, but they agreed the train program would be slowed down.
Republicans described the cuts as necessary at a time when the federal budget deficit exceeds $1.6 trillion.
“There’s a lot of programs that have benefits. The challenge is to prioritize,” said Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen.
Paulsen was pleased that Democrats and Republicans were able to reach a deal to cut spending and he said Republicans had re-framed the debate in Washington to focus on cutting rather than adding spending.
Republicans have already proposed even deeper cuts for next year’s budget and have proposed a plan to balance the budget over several decades by transforming the Medicare program into a system of vouchers for those currently under 55.
Democrats have denounced the Republican plan, which also includes lowering tax rates on those with high incomes. Last week, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison called the plan, “the roadmap to ruin.”
Amid this debate, President Obama plans to lay out his vision for how to balance the federal budget while maintaining a social safety next in a speech tomorrow.