At the annual Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner Thursday night, legislative leaders discussed the upcoming 2010 session and their expectations.
DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said state lawmakers may take a piece-meal approach to trimming the state's budget, instead of waiting for an overall budget deal at the end of the session.
Lawmakers need to erase a $1.2 billion budget deficit during the 2010 session that began on Thursday. Kelliher, who is also a candidate for governor, said House Democrats will work to quickly pass some spending cuts.
"We want to actually try to make some changes early in that session that would help our budget forecast in early March," Kelliher said. "For every dollar that we do take out of spending, it saves two dollars later on."
Kelliher said lawmakers will try to erase the deficit through spending cuts alone, but said that could be difficult to accomplish.
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he will not support any tax increases to balance the budget.
Pawlenty didn't offer specifics on how he planned to erase the budget deficit, but the Republican governor used some sharp words to talk about his plan to slash the budget.
"You at look at the forecast and the demands that comes in through the political system and the way this stuff gets on autopilot and blank check budgeting," Pawlenty said. "It just never ends. It just goes up and up and up. I've had enough; I hope you had enough. I think it's just like Tiger Woods' wife ... we should take a nine iron to the back windshield of big government spending."
Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature say they support Pawlenty's plans to balance the state's budget through spending cuts alone. The GOP governor said he'll release his budget plan next week, and hasn't offered specifics on which programs he intends to cut to erase a projected $1.2 billion deficit.
Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers said that increasing taxes in a tough economy is the wrong move.
"If you look at where the budget deficit came from, 70 percent of that $1.2 billion is out of personal income," Zellers said. "Folks don't have the money out there to go and raise taxes. There's not a lot of money laying around. From small business owners to big business owners, our job is to do just like they have to do; we have to live within our means."
DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said he's committed to making spending cuts to balance the budget, but he warned that the state faces deep budget problems over the next three years that will require what he calls a balanced approach.
"There's simply no way to close a $5 billion, which is somewhere between 14 and 18 percent of our operations budget, without a balanced solution that includes both serious permanent cost reductions and retooling of our business operation and additional revenue," Pogemiller said.