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VIEWPOINT: Unallotment wil hurt N.W. Minnesota

CROOKSTON -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday announced his unallotment plans, which will cut an additional $2.7 billion from the state budget on top of the nearly $2 billion in cuts passed by the Legislature this session.

CROOKSTON -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday announced his unallotment plans, which will cut an additional $2.7 billion from the state budget on top of the nearly $2 billion in cuts passed by the Legislature this session.

I want to provide Herald readers with information about these cuts and some context about what impact they will have on our district.

-- K-12 education:

About $1.7 billion in payments will be delayed to Minnesota schools. The impact will vary between school districts, but in the short term, schools may have to borrow, increase their levies, cut their budgets or bring about some combination.

-- Property taxes:

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Some $300 million will be cut from local government aid to counties, cities and townships. Because the governor already unalloted more than $100 million from local government aid in December, the vast majority of these cuts will result in higher property taxes and could result in cutting essential services such as police and fire.

Locally, the following cuts were made to counties and cities: Polk County, $731,831; Marshall County, $204,851; Pennington County, $261,985; Crookston, $552,316; East Grand Forks, $593,357; Thief River Falls, $467,558; Red Lake Falls, $119,568; and Warren, $99,350

Red Lake County and other counties with populations fewer than 5,000 residents, as well as cities with populations of fewer than 1,000 (the Minnesota communities of Alvardo, Argyle, Brooks, Climax, Fertile, Fisher, Mentor, Middle River, Newfolden, Nielsville, Oklee, Oslo, Plummer, St. Hilaire and Stephen) were exempted from cuts.

The governor also plans to cut $50 million from the renters' credit, which will raise taxes on many senior citizens on fixed incomes. In our area, more than half of those who use the renters' credit are senior citizens.

-- Health care, hospitals and services for the disabled:

About $236 million will be cut from various health care programs, on top of the nearly $930 million in cuts that were made this session (that figure includes the governor's $380 million line-item veto of General Assistance Medical Care).

These cuts will hurt rural hospitals, nursing homes and disability providers and trigger significant job layoffs. Programs and services that were cut include: Direct and indirect cuts to hospitals and care providers, $82 million; direct and indirect cuts to nursing homes, $13.1 million; eliminating general assistance medical care sooner, $15 million; emergency grants for the disabled, $15 million; medically prescribed diets for disabled, $5.3 million; disabled personal care attendants, $7.5 million; transitional Minnesota Care, $37.5 million; critical access dental, $6.2 million; county mental health grants, $8.1 million

-- Higher education:

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More than $100 million will be cut from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, on top of the $60 million in cuts that were signed into law this session.

The Legislature was able to hold tuition increases down to 3 percent during the session, but the governor's unallotment may cause further increases in tuition.

-- State government:

Some $33 million will be cut across the board to state agency operating budgets. Exemptions are made for public safety, military and veterans affairs, corrections and State Operated Services within the Department of Human Services.

There are many important questions that must be answered about how these cuts will impact our community. We must find out the how these cuts will impact jobs at our schools, hospitals and nursing homes and understand how much property taxes may increase as a result.

Lieder, a DFLer, represents District 1B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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