By Roz Kohls
MEEKER COUNTY, MN State Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) said the first day of the Legislative session Tuesday was spent mostly doing organizational business and as a “family day” for legislators.
However, Urdahl could tell from conversations he had with other legislators and lobbyists that this will be a “tough session.” There appears to be no solution on how to solve the state deficit problem, he said Wednesday.
The deficit totals $4.8 billion now. With inflation, it could be significantly higher. Legislators will need to cut spending and raise revenues. First, every department in the state must make reductions, Urdahl said.
Health and Human Services department, one of the biggest parts of the state budget, will need to cut spending, he added.
“I don’t want to cut eduction,” Urdahl said, however, about another one of the biggest parts of the state budget.
Urdahl isn’t averse to cutting spending on services for illegal immigrants, he said.
Urdahl also wants to cut mandated spending, so the departments receiving revenues have the freedom to use the funds the way they feel is best, and not “tie their hands,” he said.
As to increasing revenues, whether the state gets help from the federal government is a question, Urdahl said.
Raising state fees is possible, but Urdahl doesn’t want to raise taxes in a recession.
“I don’t want to tax job-creators out of the state,” he added.
“It’s going to be tough in the end,” Urdahl said.
State Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel) also said balancing the budget by reducing programs and regulations will be a priority for the state senate. Dille is certain he will spend no time this session on getting new programs that cost money and new regulations, he said.
The senate will concentrate on initiatives that make the government more efficient by reducing government programs or functions, Dille said.
The baseline will be the state constitution. The constitution mandates the government spends on judiciary, education and transportation, he said.
A second tier of what government does is created by the state legislature. There might be reductions in spending and regulations to be made in the second tier, Dille said.
The third tier of spending is probably where most of the reductions will be found.
“They’re nice, but if you don’t have enough money to do it, skip it,” Dille added.