Here is a quick recap of two items which made headlines in St. Paul this week.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled budget reductions Gov. Tim Pawlenty made last year to balance the budget exceeded his authority. This 4-3 decision was in response to a lawsuit brought forth by Democrats and it could result in a state budget shortfall of more than $3 billion. We are waiting for the majority to announce how it plans to patch this hole, but time is tight because less than two weeks remain in the current session.
The majority has enacted only one-third of its plan to balance the existing shortfall of nearly $1 billion. Our task of balancing the budget is even more difficult because the majority's proposal included $408 million in federal Medicaid funds, but we have yet to receive those funds and it's unlikely we will before the end of the session. The governor recently amended his budget proposal to exclude the federal funds, but the majority has not taken that step.
Proposals for real reform and a more efficient government continue to be denied, but we've now reached the point where things will have to change because our state is on track to run out of money this summer if all the unallotments are reversed. I will continue to offer positive ways of solving this problem without raising taxes or fees, but we have to start by living within our taxpayer funded means.
The Minnesota Vikings' push for a new stadium also has been in the news. A committee voted down what may have been the most viable plan, by a 10-9 margin. The proposal the committee denied would use levy payments from the Minneapolis Convention Center to fund a new Vikings stadium once the Convention Center bonds had been paid. That plan had no tax implications for rural Minnesota. But that proposal was rejected by Minneapolis because they see it as diverting funds that had been planned for future capital improvements at the Convention Center.
Provisions to pay for the stadium with taxes on car rentals, hotels, and sports memorabilia in the seven-county metro area were taken out of the bill the night before the vote.
Another stadium plan is still alive in the Senate, but it is a long-shot at best because it relies heavily on personal seat licenses. The Vikings say this simply would not generate enough revenue.
Those who know me best also knows I'm a huge Vikings fan, all the way back to the team's first season when we were just starting to learn about guys like Fran Tarkenton and Jim Marshall. For that reason I favor continuing work to find a solution. But any plan we adopt must be a responsible one that fits our shaky economy by relying more on user-based funding mechanisms as opposed to new general taxes.
The Vikings Metrodome lease is set to expire in 2011. Other states may begin working to recruit the Vikings in the meantime.