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2011 budget deal leaves disagreements

Minnesota lawmakers are moving forward early in their 2012 legislative session, hoping they do not need to revisit divisive budget decisions made last year while plugging a $5 billion deficit.

Republicans say they hear few complaints about the two-year budget they passed in July, to end a 20-day government shutdown, while Democrats say the mostly Republican-written spending plan hurts Minnesotans.

"We've been able to get control of some of the costs of government," Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said. "People are generally happy with the direction we've taken."

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, agreed: "We cut some pretty significant budget last year. We are still here. I don't think a lot of government has been hurt."

Democrats heard things differently since leaving St. Paul last summer.

The budget deal "caused major problems in so many parts of the state," Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said.

Falk said Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton was forced to sign Republican-written bills that forced property tax increases and delayed payments to schools. "He was left in a no-win situation."

"I get a significant amount of comments," Falk said, especially from cities and counties whose leaders say they have been forced to make "significant reductions in staff. They are trying to do more. And I think people are seeing a reduction in the quality of services provided."

Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, said he is surprised he heard few comments from the public.

But Gimse heard complaints at a New London-Spicer school board meeting last month about a problem that still bothers schools: a delay in state payments to districts.

Board Chairman Robert Moller told Gimse: "You have a surplus because you borrowed from the schools."