House Speaker advocates long-term budget outlook

University Regent also calls for long-term financial planning on campus.

In a Monday morning speech at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs , Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis , called for long-term solutions to the stateâÄôs short-term budget deficit. She described MinnesotaâÄôs history of alternating surpluses and deficits as a âÄúbudget tilt-a-whirlâÄù the state needs to get off of, saying it leads to broken promises and breeds chaos. The state currently faces a multi-billion dollar deficit, and an estimate of the deficit will be announced Tuesday by the state Management and Budget Department to provide a baseline for this sessionâÄôs budget decisions. Lee Munnich, the Director for the Humphrey InstituteâÄôs State and Local Policy Program agreed with the idea of long-term planning. âÄúHaving a long-term plan for this is important and I think trying to set up a process for doing that while resolving these immediate budget issues sounds to me like a really good idea,âÄù he said. The magnitude of this budget is a challenge for everybody whoâÄôs involved, and it goes beyond political ideology, Munnich said. Kelliher said no one thing, like the oft-mentioned tax increases on the wealthy or universal budget cuts, would fix the problem. Because this is a very big hole to fill, cuts will go almost everywhere in the stateâÄôs budget, she said. But choices will have to be made because 15 percent across-the-board cuts would be harmful and Minnesotans donâÄôt have the stomach for them, she said. The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was needed, Kelliher said, but she warned that because the federal money would provide a short-term cushion for certain areas of the stateâÄôs budget, such as education and health care, it left the state with a âÄúbudget cliffâÄù to deal with in the following biennium. While Kelliher acknowledged that Gov. Tim Pawlenty would be making a new budget proposal in late March, she cited the governorâÄôs current proposal, which is balanced for 2010-2011 but leaves a more than $2.5 billion deficit for the 2012-2013 biennium as one reason for long-term planning. PawlentyâÄôs spokesman Brian McClung said in an e-mail that legislators have been âÄúthrowing stonesâÄù at PawlentyâÄôs budget plan during the first few weeks of the session. âÄúDFL legislators have spent almost the first half of the legislative session criticizing the Governor’s proposals without offering one substantial idea of their own,âÄù McClung said in an e-mail. âÄúAt some point they’re going to have to come to the table with a new idea or go ahead and embrace their inner-tax-increaser and reveal their plans for tax hikes.âÄù Kelliher said part of the long-term solution needed to be an increase in transparency and accountability. The Legislature needs to hold programs accountable after funding them, to make sure the money is being spent effectively. As a part of that solution, she proposed better internal and legislative auditing of state agencies, along with greater public accountability for where money is spent. The Legislature will begin working on the budget in greater detail after the stateâÄôs budget forecast comes out Tuesday, Kelliher said. University Regent Clyde Allen said he and several other regents have been trying for some time to get the University to plan its budget long-term, and not just every couple of years when the stateâÄôs budget comes out, and heâÄôs been quite pleased with the results of the task force President Bruininks started a few months ago to deal with the issue. The University has planned long-term for academics and research, but hasnâÄôt put together a 10-year plan for the finances. Allen said he would like the University to plan for what future expenses will be and where funding will come from to support those expenses. âÄúWhat happens when you donâÄôt do that is that when some of the financial resources donâÄôt show up, such as state funding in times of recession, something else has to make up the difference, and itâÄôs often been tuition,âÄù he said.