The Legislature erased a $3 billion state budget deficit without any new taxes or surcharges and adjourned on time Monday. But not until after some twists and turns.
We reached a budget agreement just prior to the deadline of midnight Sunday, but sheer logistics made it impossible to process the legislation under the wire. Gov. Tim Pawlenty called a special session at 12:01 a.m. Monday and we adjourned a little more than 10 hours later.
The breakthrough came when differences pertaining to health care funding were resolved. The majority sought to put more than 100,000 Minnesotans into Medicaid under a provision of federal legislation called early Medicaid enrollment. That provision was eliminated, with this caveat: The next governor may opt to shift low-income Minnesotans into early enrollment.
The final legislation also includes additional funding for rural hospitals and a $1.9 billion shift in K-12 education money. Additionally, some of the $2.7 billion in cuts the governor made last year were reinstated. The reductions recently were overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court, but were put back on the books for this biennium. The governor wanted to make his cuts permanent, but that initiative fell during negotiations.
Overall, the reductions were reasonably fair and across the board. Nursing homes were held harmless and K-12 education was not cut. It would have been better if we’d been able to address our long-term budget since a $5-8 billion shortfall is forecast for the upcoming budget cycle.
I thank all those who have been in contact with me throughout the legislative session. It will be good to return home from St. Paul so I can spend more time traveling across District 18B, discussing the issues with local folks. There will be plenty of ice cream socials and other gatherings for us to break down what happened in 2010 and take a look at what’s on tap for 2011.