Gov. Tim Pawlenty may be calling a budget forecast for a $6.2 billion shortfall fiction, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see it as a hefty task ahead of them. GOP House Speaker-designate Kurt Zellers said they’ll “prioritize kids and nursing homes” while DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen said a “cuts only budget” would devastate classrooms, nursing homes and drastically increase college tuition.
Republicans wouldn’t flatly rule out revenue, except if that’s really a code word for tax increases which they say they won’t do. Senate GOP Majority Leader Amy Koch said lawmakers could do a cuts only budget without revenue. DFL Minority Leader Tom Bakk said the budget fix will have revenue. Republicans who are still getting settled into new leadership offices, strictly stuck to talking points of “living within our means” while reporters tried to pry out more details.
Leading candidate for governor Mark Dayton held a press conference at the Capitol, breathlessly apologizing for being late for the first time in memory. He said Gov. Pawlenty “left us in a terrible situation.” Meanwhile the current governor announced he “leaves office with a surplus.” It was hard not to notice that Pawlenty’s wingmen at his final budget forecast are the guys who stood by each other way back when Republicans last took control of the House in 1998, current commissioners and former fellow lawmakers Steve Sviggum and Dan McElroy. Sviggum passionately stood before the podium saying “this blame game gets tiring.”