The state deficit for the next biennium — now pegged at $5 billion — won’t go away by itself, so some Minnesota lawmakers are using the legislative off-season to find ways to simplify or redesign state and local governments, hoping that will lead to some major savings.
Don Davis of Forum Communications says those plans for a more efficient government could mean “more bang for each tax dollar”:
“In my mind, I think this is the light at the end of the tunnel,” Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said about a handful of proposals that are being launched. “I thought we had a very good start.”
Davis says these efforts are in the works:
- A council to spur more cooperation among governments at all levels.
- The Council on Local Results and Innovation, a group charged with the task of finding innovative ways for cities and counties to provide services and spread those ideas around the state.
- A working group given the job of simplifying the property tax system.
- An effort to collect ideas from Minnesotans about how to improve government at all levels, with a goal of producing a number of bills to be considered by the 2011 Legislature.
The increasingly intense partisan discord, though, doesn’t make it easy.
“Doing things in a bipartisan manner runs up against political consequences,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, citing an effort that failed when rural lawmakers of both parties tried to draw up bipartisan proposals.
Still, redesign lawmakers say, the massive budget deficit that they face could draw them together as they hunt ways to both manage the budget and make government more efficient.