The debate was passionate and the outcome predictable as Senate Republicans passed a budget-cutting bill that is nearly a mirror image of the version passed by the House.
The Senate version makes cuts of about $830 million, slightly less than House Republicans cut earlier in the session.
Both House and Senate Republicans have said they’re passing these piecemeal approaches to addressing the $6.2 billion state deficit as a way to get a head start on what promises to be a hugely difficult process.
“This is simply the beginning,’’ said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, just before the Senate voted 34-27 to pass the cuts. “Let’s keep the discussions going.’’
All Senate Republicans supported the measure, all DFLers who were present (three were absent) opposed the bill.
Republicans argued that these weren’t cuts at all but, rather, an extension of “temporary reductions’’ made by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty last year.
Federal stimulus money was available to backfill many of those cuts. Those funds no longer are available.
DFLers argued today that it makes no sense to “rush’’ to these cuts, which will most hurt property owners (higher property taxes are predicted), college students and many of the most vulnerable.
Kathy Shera, DFL-Mankato, agreed that cuts will have to be made. But, she said, these cuts are being made without considering statewide priorities.
It’s unclear what the Republican strategy is in moving this bill forward. The House could pass the Senate version, which would make it unnecessary to resolve differences in a conference committee.
That would get the bill to Gov. Mark Dayton before Feb. 15, when he plans to propose his budget, which is expected to include both cuts and tax increases to balance the budget.
Republicans, of course, have insisted they’ll take a “cuts only” approach to resolving the budget deficit and that this bill is the relatively easy part of the job.
Dayton is almost certain to veto the Republican proposal, given many of the cuts it includes (such as funding for colleges and universities) are areas he’s pledged to support.