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Budget deficit gets attention

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Hastings, 55033
Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Legislature's first week brought a much-acclaimed funding measure for arts and outdoors programs.

On Week 2, a transportation funding bill passed. The session's upcoming third week, however, no doubt will be a downer as some predict that a state budget deficit could top $1 billion.

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A November outlook put the deficit at $373 million, but legislative leaders now expect something more than twice that. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said on Friday that her intelligence is that Gov. Tim Pawlenty predicts it to be three times the November number.

No one who knows the deficit figure is talking about it to reporters, but all will know late Thursday morning when the latest budget forecast and economic review will be released.

Legislative leaders say that it appears they will concentrate on making cuts to state programs to balance the budget, but did not rule out attempting a tax increase over Pawlenty's objections.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said senators asked Pawlenty to give them his suggestions for budget cuts within a week of Thursday's budget report. There is no indication Pawlenty will comply with those wishes.

The deficit will permeate everything lawmakers do from here on, Clark said.

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