Unallotment means more cuts for DNR

St. Paul – Right back where we started from isn’t necessarily a
good thing. The state DNR’s operating budget faces another 2.25
percent reduction in state general funds following Gov. Tim
Pawlenty’s “unallotment” on Tuesday. That’s on top of an earlier
6.9 percent reduction to address a budget shortfall over the next
two years.

While the DNR has yet to determine from where the savings will
come (the earlier reduction means the DNR’s General Fund
appropriation would decrease by about $5 million each of the next
two years), Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner, said the
agency’s first budget plan submitted to the governor earlier this
year was based on anticipated cuts of 10 percent.

Tuesday’s announcement of a 2.25 percent reduction, coupled with
the earlier reduction 6.9 percent, means the agency is back to
“where we started” in the budgeting process, Meier said.

Because they’re funded in large part by licenses and permits,
the Game and Fish and Parks and Trails divisions of the department
likely will feel the decrease to a lesser degree, he said. On the
other hand, the Waters, Ecological Resources, and Forestry
divisions will face reductions when those divisions are facing big
challenges, he said.

Some cost savings will come from not filling vacated positions,
by retirement or otherwise. Meier said the state imposed a 60-day
hiring freeze earlier this month. The Enforcement Division, too,
will be impacted. “We need to minimize reductions as much as
possible,” he said.

Meier said unallotment differs from budget reductions, in that
agencies’ budget baselines remain intact, should the economy
rebound, and revenue increase in the future.

Most scrutiny of the process – necessitated when the governor
and state Legislature failed to agree on a balanced state budget –
focused on state education and health care, as Pawlenty made the
announcement Tuesday.

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