State budget hole to challenge DNR

Associate Editor

St. Paul State departments likely will face tough decisions
regarding spending cuts based on the latest economic forecast from
the state Department of Finance. The projected state government
budget shortfall for Fiscal Years 2006-2007 is about $700
million.

State agencies have been preparing for expected revenue
shortfalls for some time, according to Brad Moore, DNR assistant
commissioner. Further, the shortfall is small compared to the $4.5
billion deficit the state faced two years ago.

“It’s a more manageable problem than last time,” Moore said this
week. “But it’s a challenging economic environment. Everyone’s in
the same boat.”

Last time around, the cuts amounted to about $26 million for the
DNR, according to Wayne Frankenberg, budget unit supervisor for the
DNR’s Office of Budget and Management Services.

“There were also some minor fee increases that minimized the
impact,” he said. Frankenberg added that another forecast that’s
released in February could cause some adjustments to budgeting.

The deficit’s biggest effect on DNR programs is on those
dependent on general revenue funds, Moore said, programs like
Forestry; Parks and Recreation; and Trails and Waterways; Land and
Minerals; and to a lesser extent, Ecological Service.

“That’s where the pressure will be,” he said. Other agency
bureaus are funded in large part by hunter and angler fees, as well
as federal funds that are directed to wildlife and fisheries
purposes.

Earlier this year, state departments were asked to prioritize
programs within the departments in anticipation of revenue
shortages.

Overall, the DNR receives about one-third of its total revenue
from state general funds. Two years ago, the DNR increased some
fees to cover cuts, and shifted dollars in other cases, Moore
said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will release his budget plan in
January, prior to the commencement of the legislative session, when
state lawmakers will make their pitch for a budget that kicks off
in July of 2005.

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