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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published January 25 2011

Budget bill heads to House

ST. PAUL – A Republican-sponsored bill cutting $1 billion from Minnesota’s budget is headed for a full House vote, probably on Thursday.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed the bill 18-13 on Monday to reduce spending in several areas by more than

$800 million in the next two years and ask the Dayton administration to trim $200 million by June 30.

City and county aids would be reduced more than $400 million below what cities expected in the next two-year budget, but it would increase to previously planned levels after that.

More cuts are possible later this legislative session, House Tax Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, said, but under the bill considered Monday, no local government “is getting less than they received in 2010” unless they already have agreed to less.

Also in the bill is a two-year pay freeze for state employee salaries.

Gov. Mark Dayton has expressed reservations about the bill but has not said he would veto it.

While the bill takes the first bite out of a $6.2 billion budget deficit, much of the remaining four months of the legislative session will be taken up producing a two-year budget of more than $30 billion. Dayton plans to present his budget plan on Feb. 15.

Quicker permits ordered

Dayton on Monday ordered two state agencies to issue permits quicker.

Under his order, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources must try to issue permits within 150 days, down from the current informal 180-day guideline.

The order is designed to speed up permits businesses need before expanding or building new facilities.

“This is going to be an on-going process,” Dayton said, adding he hopes it encourages hundreds of businesses to look at Minnesota after years of what sometimes is a long, slow permitting process.

“Time is money,” the governor said.

Dayton and Republican legislative leaders agree on the need to speed permits.

House File 1, which is a GOP priority, does much the same as the executive order. But the bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, goes a bit beyond what Dayton could do by himself.

Fabian’s bill advanced through a second House committee Monday, with at least one more committee stop before reaching a full House vote.

Commissioner Paul Aasen of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said that among the order’s requirements is increasing the use of electronic permit applications.

Business leaders say that speeding the permitting process is one of the major things lawmakers can do to help encourage businesses to create jobs.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com