City hopeful over state forecast

Published 9:37 am Monday, December 6, 2010

The state budget forecast released last week is leaving Albert Lea leaders with a mixed reaction as they look forward to the coming year.

Albert Lea Interim City Manager Pat McGarvey said with a new projected $399 million state surplus for the fiscal year that ends in June, the good news is that there will be no local government aid cuts coming from the governor this month.ver

Vern Rasmussen

McGarvey said the proposed city budget for fiscal year 2011 does not need to be adjusted downward as of now because what may happen in the next biennium is yet to be determined. If the Legislature and governor reduce funding to LGA as a means to address a projected $6.2 billion deficit — which is higher than previously expected — cities may be facing mid-fiscal year 2011 city budget issues that would require reductions.

“It’s such a volatile situation right now for us to figure this out,” said Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen. “There’s no way to know the answer.”

However, Rasmussen said at this point he is being cautiously optimistic about the future. He noted at this point the city has a contingency plan in place and is running about $300,000 under budget for the year, which could be needed if cuts come in 2011.

“I think LGA continues to be an important piece to every rural community, not just Albert Lea,” Rasmussen said. “This is not just an Albert Lea program; it’s a whole state program put in place so we have a healthy state.”

Newly elected District 27A Rep. Rich Murray, who will be seated in January, said he thinks decisions with the state budget are going to require some real leadership.

Murray, who was in the middle of freshman orientation last week when the forecasts came out, said out of all of the freshman legislators who will be seated in January, most ran on the same campaign message that the deficit needs to be fixed by living within our means.

He talked about looking at mandate relief and looking at a reform of government.

“There’s going to be some pain in resolving this budget — no doubt about it — but we cannot let this continue on,” Murray said. “We have to make some tough decisions and figure out our priorities.

“I don’t think anything’s going to go untouched,” he added. “Both sides of the aisle are saying this.”

However, he said the state cannot forget to take care of its elderly, the children and disabled adults.

“We have to make sure we’re here to take care of the vulnerable people,” he said.

Murray noted he was pleased to hear that many of his fellow upcoming legislators wanted to make decisions that supported these aims.

“To do this properly, we’re going to have to do some work together,” he said.” And make sure we’re taking care of as many people as we can.”