House bill would cut $100 million from public safety, courts

The Minnesota House passed a bill Thursday that would spend nearly $2 billion on public safety and the courts over the next two years. The Republican-backed bill would cut nearly $100 million in state funding compared to the current biennium.

The bill passed on a party-line vote of 71-59.

It would provide stiffer prison penalties for dangerous sex offenders. But it also could cut more than $16 million from the prison system, and cut funding for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and battered women's programs.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, chairman of the public safety committee, said the cuts were judicious. He is especially pleased by the proposed increases in penalties for some sex offenses.

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"We'll have a second hearing to see if we can classify them as a sexually predatory offender," Cornish said. "Once that determination is made, they will receive a minimum mandatory of 25 years, so they're not eligible for any release for 25 years and a maximum up to 60 years."

But DFLers challenged the plans for a two-thirds cut to the state's Department of Human Rights and the proposed cuts to the prison system.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said the bill would also cut disaster recovery funds.

"That's all disasters, not just floods," Hillstrom said. "And they do not have that matching money in the bill. They have actually reduced the amount. So what that would mean is local communities who have to come up with matching money to get the federal money would be on their own to raise it."

Republicans say the cuts were necessary to help erase the state's $5 billion projected deficit.