Statewide spending freeze proposed

State Rep. Paul Kohls , R-Victoria, proposed a statewide budget freeze to curb spending in the face of a projected $5.2 billion deficit . The plan would cap spending from MinnesotaâÄôs General Fund at the level of projected revenues for the 2010-11 biennium, currently $31.8 billion according to a budget forecast released Thursday. âÄúI think we can fund our priorities with even less than that,âÄù Kohls said. âÄúBut getting there is going to be a challenge.âÄù Kohls started a website,, to introduce the measure. He said a spending freeze would be a way to stop the legislature from expanding the budget despite the deficit. In 2003, the last time the state faced a budget deficit, the state increased spending by 5.6 percent. âÄúWhat I see as a problem is the fact that despite the recurrent deficit, weâÄôve never held the line on spending in the state of Minnesota,âÄù Kohls said. The stateâÄôs general fund budget has almost tripled in the last twenty years. A spending freeze now would be the first since at least 1960. âÄúWeâÄôve got to slow down the spending and make some significant priority decisions or weâÄôre going to continue having these kinds of problems,âÄù Kohls said. During the current biennium, which started in 2008, the stateâÄôs general fund has received $32.8 billion in revenues, but spent almost $34.6 billion, according to a document from Minnesota Management and Budget office. On Thursday, state economists projected 2010-11 spending to grow 6.1 percent to $36.7 billion. Higher education funding is expected to grow by $18 million, or .6 percent. Kohls said under the freeze, state-funded institutions like the University of Minnesota could still receive budget increases, but those would come at the expense of others in the state. University CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter said state lawmakers should look to make cuts in areas that are increasing spending more than higher education. âÄú[The deficit is] an enormous number and I worry not just about the impact on the University of Minnesota but I think we need to worry about how itâÄôs going to impact Minnesota as a whole,âÄù he said. At a press conference, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the deficit would lead to a “needed exercise” in government reform and streamlining. The level is spending is “unsustainable and irresponsible at a time when the economy is not growing at all,” Pawlenty said. -Jake Grovum contributed to this report