By State Rep. Bud Nornes
There are three areas Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget proposal prioritizes and public safety is one of those protected areas, even if a recent guest column claimed otherwise.
In fact, Pawlenty upholds public safety funding to a greater degree than plans offered by either the House or the Senate. He budgeted $1.8 billion for public safety in ’08-’09 (a 9-percent increase over ’06-’07) and has budgeted $1.8 billion again for ’10-’11.
Over in the Senate, the majority proposes to cut public safety by $131 million (7 percent). The Senate bill cuts Departments of Public Safety and Corrections vehicles by 20 percent and trims operating budgets for agencies like the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Homeland Security by 7 percent. A double-whammy could come from the Senate because it likely will attempt to cut local government aid, leaving some public safety entities slashed even further.
Then you have the House majority, which plans to cut $60 million from public safety; this plan includes $38 million in one-time federal stimulus funds to prevent the cuts from going deeper. The House’s public safety bill cuts $25 million from the governor’s corrections budget and raises fees by $28 million. This bill left out funding for almost 200 critical security corrections jobs that were included in the governor’s budget proposal.
While the House and Senate majorities have been busy cutting, the House minority recently offered a bill that is more like Pawlenty’s plan in the way it upholds public safety funding. Keeping citizens safe is the top responsibility of any government, a value the House minority shares with the governor.
The House minority’s public safety plan includes these bullet points: It provides $14 million more for Corrections than the House majority; removes a $28 million fee increase pushed by House majority; reduces grants by $24 million, which are often awarded and spent with little oversight or accountability; and helps the courts become more efficient in the way they collect fines.
There is no getting around the fact our state faces a $6.4 billion budget deficit, but Pawlenty and the House minority have protected public safety, K-12 education and veterans safe from cuts.
Raiding public safety and corrections funding is unacceptable and Pawlenty has made it clear he hopes local units of government share this spending priority. He cannot be blamed if some budgets are handled differently.
Pawlenty showed that we can balance the budget, prioritize public safety and not raise taxes. Our plans from the legislative majorities show they can raise our taxes by billions and cut public safety.
Nornes represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and can be reached at (800) 336-8017 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.