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Public safety severely cut

Published (3/28/2008)
By Craig Green
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Though not as severe as the governor’s recommended cuts, proposed reductions to public safety agencies will still have a bite.

Approved March 26 by the House Public Safety Finance Division, HF4077, sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), the division chairman, was included in the House Finance Committee supplemental bill, HF1812, the next day.

Paymar said that making the cuts was not easy, and together with other committee members, he tried to make the case “that public safety is a core function of government and that we should be careful when making cuts to public safety.”

The proposal is $5.45 million shy of the governor’s recommendations, but still adds up to an $11.02 million reduction.

As anticipated, a large brunt of the cuts would come from the judicial branch, specifically the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and district courts. The total cut reduction is $4.53 million in Fiscal Year 2009, half the $9.1 million proposed by the governor.

The Board of Public Defense would lose $1.69 million; again, half of the governor’s recommendations.

The Department of Public Safety would receive a $1.24 million reduction, including funds set aside for a Financial Crimes Task Force, and squad car technology upgrades. Specific language protects dedicated funds for the Office of Justice Programs and new forensic lab scientist positions established last session.

The Department of Corrections would have its budget narrowed by $2.44 million, with a $1.5 million reduction in funding to counties as reimbursement for housing short-term offenders in county jails.

The one non-fiscal section of the bill includes the formation of a working group to review and make recommendations regarding state-controlled substance laws. This section comes from HF2996, also sponsored by Paymar, which began an effort to provide more support for prisoners re-entering society after incarceration. A report would be due the Legislature by Jan. 16, 2009.

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