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Minnesota Legislature

Covering projected shortfalls

Published (2/20/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Deficiency funding for a pair of state departments awaits action by the full House.

Sponsored by Rep. Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids), HF117 would provide a combined $17.06 million to the Human Services and Public Safety departments. It was amended and approved Feb. 16 by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The bill would provide $16 million for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and $1.06 million to provide a match for federal flood relief money designated for Cook, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Mower and Nobles counties.

Of the sex offender money, $14.4 million would come from the General Fund, with the other 10 percent coming from counties.

“The deficiency bill is one that the administration has identified that needs to be passed this year to fund programs that are short for a variety of reasons,” Solberg said.

Dennis Benson, executive director of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, said participation is up and a building to be completed last year is not complete, forcing beds to continue being rented from the Corrections Department. “If we laid off 500 staff today, we could not pile up $16 million the rest of the biennium. I don’t think we want to waste our time talking about releasing 500 sex offenders.”

Amended to the bill is a provision to allow any positive unrestricted General Fund balance at the end of the current biennium, June 30, 2009, to be carried forward to fiscal year 2010.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr. (DFL-Crystal) said most state requirements to receive federal funds have been met, but state law would require some of the incoming money to first be used to replenish the state’s budget reserve. However, that is prohibited under federal law.

“There would be, in all likelihood, some Medicaid dollars that would be coming in,” Carlson said. “This amendment would allow those dollars to carry forward to 2010 and not be put in the budget reserve.”

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson said there is a “strong possibility” the state could lose federal money without the amendment in place.

A companion bill, SF95, sponsored by Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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