Republicans in the Minnesota Senate hope to pass a bill this week that cuts $1 billion in state spending and is designed to be the first step toward erasing a projected $6.2 billion shortfall for the next two year budget cycle.
The bill targets funding for higher education, aid to cities and counties, and health and human services programs. It also gives Gov. Dayton authority to make $125 million in cuts to this year's budget.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said the many of the cuts were first made unilaterally by Gov. Pawlenty and then approved on a one-time basis by last year's Legislature.
"These are, for the most part, budgets that local governments and higher education are already living with and I think a lot of people sense that this is going to be part of the budget solution," Koch said. "We're just trying to be very open and honest and forthright with the people of Minnesota. We came here to work. We didn't come here to play games."
The House passed a similar budget bill last week. Critics say the proposal will force local governments to raise property taxes and colleges and universities to increase tuition.
DFL Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka said she thinks Republicans should wait until Governor Dayton releases his budget.
"The governor has said that he wants to take a full look at this, the whole $6.2 billion," Bonoff said. "I voted on some of those things so I can accept some of them and I talk about the shift about being in that category. But, again, the governor wasn't a part of that and he's been very clear that he wants to do a complete budget solution."
Gov. Dayton said he wants a comprehensive approach to the budget. He releases his plan on February 15.