The calm before the storm; Lawmakers ready to deal with deficit in 2011

11:57 AM, Dec 29, 2010   |    comments
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  • The calm before the storm; Lawmakers ready to deal with deficit in 2011
  • The calm before the storm; Lawmakers ready to deal with deficit in 2011
  • The calm before the storm; Lawmakers ready to deal with deficit in 2011
    

ST. PAUL, Minn.  --  Just one week before the 2011 legislative session, the state capitol was quiet and dark. A handful of employees wheeled carts of supplies around. The state office building had more activity, but only a handful of lawmakers were present, getting started early.

One of them was DFL Representative Tom Rukavina from Virginia, who now occupies a 3rd floor office.  "This is a historical flip-flop," he said when talking about the new leadership.  Republicans now control the House and Senate; the DFL now owns the governor's office.

"We've got 3 parts to who drives the car," Republican Senator Warren Limmer of Maple Grove said.

Limmer was hanging pictures and crunching numbers in his new office in the East wing of the Capitol.

Rukavina and Limmer agreed on perhaps the most important thing heading into the new session.

"The biggest priority is really going to be the budget, a 6 billion dollar hole," Limmer said.  "We've been deficit spending since 2001, the state of Minnesota has a structural deficit," Rukavina added.

The fix is a daunting challenge; the biggest one the two longtime lawmakers have ever faced.

"We've stolen every bit of money, whether it was surpluses and worker's comp or the tobacco settlement money.  It's all gone so now the real work has to begin," the Representative said.

"Now it's not just going to be the low hanging fruit, we're going to have to go for the mighty bows of the tree," the Senator explained.

Can they agree upon such a thing?  Political analyst and Hamline Professor David Schultz is not optimistic.

"This session is going to look a lot like previous sessions in the sense that come the 3rd week in May, we're going to go into special session because we don't have any agreement on the budget bill and we have no basic agreement on how to do the spending," Schultz warned.

Lawmakers also realize the road ahead is long, winding, and filled with potholes.

"The budget is going to be the greatest vexing influence in our session this year, it will control everything," Senator Limmer concluded.

"I would say that this is definitely the ugliest legislative session I've ever seen, or, will probably ever participate in," Representative Rukavina added.

(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All rights reserved.)

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