Union sends budget ideas to Pawlenty

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty would not need to cut budgets so deeply if he would listen to a state union's ideas, the organization's executive director says.

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty would not need to cut budgets so deeply if he would listen to a state union's ideas, the organization's executive director says.

Jim Monroe of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees said that his staff is looking into ways the state can save money. Although the effort is not done, the MAPE leader said, it is producing good prospects. MAPE has given the Pawlenty administration its ideas, but has heard little back.

For instance, MAPE found that the state may employ about 400 too many supervisors.

The state requires some organizations that receive grants to have no more than 15 percent supervisors on their payrolls. Applying the same criteria to state government could save $55 million, Monroe said.

A second area of potential savings could come from lowering the number of private contractors that work for the state, Monroe added. In the electrical inspection area alone, MAPE figures the state could save $3.4 million by using state employees.


In his Tuesday announcement of budget cuts and delays in state payments, which total $2.7 billion, Pawlenty said state workers would be laid off, but he had no idea how many. Those layoffs are expensive, Monroe said, costing the state health insurance due laid off workers and paying unemployment benefits.

"They are talking more money" laying off people rather than keeping them on the payroll, Monroe added, especially if they could take over duties now handled by private companies.

Budget cuts and payment delays, especially to school districts, in Pawlenty's plan were needed because the Republican governor and Democrats who control the Legislature did not agree on an overall budget before lawmakers adjourned for the year May 18. Pawlenty decided to take action on his own rather than call a special legislative session.

Failure to find a budget deal means Legislature-passed bills spent $2.7 billion more than available revenue.

Ask Wisconsin

One part of Pawlenty's unallotment plan is up to Wisconsin's good will.

The governor's plan includes $106 million to be gained by Wisconsin speeding up payments to Minnesota. Residents who live in one of the states and work in the other can pay taxes in their home state under a so-called reciprocity agreement, with the state where the person works being reimbursed by the person's home state.

Many more Wisconsin residents work in Minnesota, so Wisconsin must pay millions every year. The trouble is, Pawlenty said, Wisconsin's payments to Minnesota are delayed 17 months. His administration estimates that Minnesota would gain $106 million in the next two years if Wisconsin paid on time.


However, Wisconsin faces an even bigger budget deficit than Minnesota, so Gov. Jim Doyle -- a Pawlenty buddy -- may not want to speed up payments. Doyle is just learning about Pawlenty's request, despite the fact that the two talked earlier this week.

Dental concern

Minnesota dentists worry that oral health-care program cuts will be felt by rural and low-income Minnesotans.

"Poor people don't have lobbyists," said Dr. John Flor, founder of Main Street Dental in Blooming Prairie. "We see 15,000 medical assistance patients per year, and some come from up to 200 miles away to get access to our care. But we can't accept new patients without adequate funding. While our clinic will survive these cuts, others may not."

The Minnesota Dental Association said the $6.2 million reduction, which will not happen for nearly a year, could force dentists to decide not to serve people who cannot pay and could close some clinics.

The association warns that hospital emergency rooms may get busier as dental patients have no place else to turn.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune.

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