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Bloggers battle over Minnesota’s budget deficit

It’s wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.

That was the consensus yesterday among politicians, members of the media and number-crunchers as Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced the state’s budget shortfall would be under $5 billion. Some predicted billions more.

But behind the “cautious sigh of relief” headlines that dominated local media, two blogs – Minnesota Budget Solutions and Minnesota Budget Bites — used yesterday’s news to jump to the forefront of budget discussions on the Minnesota blogosphere.

Both sites have become far more relevant and active over the last few months as it became clear that the state budget would be a continual source for debate.

The left-leaning Bites wrote an in-depth post that looks closely at how the federal stimulus money factored into the deficit number and why it may not be as helpful as some believe. The site noted that “the largest chunk of money coming to the state from the federal government is in the form of an increase in the federal matching rate on Medicaid spending.”

The right-leaning Solutions took a slightly more populist approach, using budget-deficit day to post a YouTube video of angry Minnesotans complaining about legislators.

Both blogs are the product of organizations with strong political ties, points of views and a vested interest in the state budget. Bites is an initiative of the Minnesota Council Of Non-Profits and Solutions is run by a coalition of local organizations  that believe the size of government should be reduced before taxes are raised.

The blogs’ methods of hooking readers are as different as their politics. Bites takes a nuanced, more intellectual approach to its message, while Solutions aims for catchier Web bits, which include a state budget calculator and an interactive budget-shortfall idea generator (courtesy of MPR).

Having a blog to present your group’s point of view can be a great way to help frame a contentious debate in your favor in the eyes of the public. It can also be disastrous if you’re not deft with your message. These two sites seem to be neatly in step with the organizations that brought them to life.

Both blogs will certainly have a louder voice in months to come as Minnesotans fight over how to fill the budget gap. Bookmark them for a front row seat to the budget battle.

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