Abortion issue delays part of budget
ST. PAUL - Deep divisions over abortions delayed part of the Minnesota Senate's budget bill.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party senators could not produce enough votes to turn back a proposal to ban all state-funded abortions Monday night, so the party's leaders pulled the health and human services budget provisions until they can round up enough votes to pass it.
Many rural Democrats appear ready to join a majority of Republicans and vote against abortions.
Senators passed other parts of the proposed budget bill64-3, setting up a House-Senate conference committee to reach a compromise between vastly differing bills.
The Senate budget plan, if the health and human services portion eventually passes, would add $204 million to the existing budget, while the House would add $88 million. Both bills are small potatoes compared to the $30.1 billion, two-year budget lawmakers approved last year.
Both chambers emphasized housing sex offenders and other dangerous criminals in state hospitals, a $70 million expense. But state hospital funding is in the health and human services portion of the Senate proposal.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said the health and human services budget may return to the Senate on Wednesday. New stadiums for the University of Minnesota, Twins and Vikings will be in front of senators today.
Republicans strongly criticized Democrats for not wanting to vote on abortion-related amendments.
"This has been a sham from the very beginning," said Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington. "It is the worst management style I have ever seen."
"What are we afraid of?" Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna, added. "Why are you causing all of this? Can't you just take votes around here?"
Senate Democrats have struggled for five days over abortion amendments they know will be offered when the health and human services debate is held.
Besides banning all state-funded abortions, the expected amendments would track judges who let underage girls receive abortions without parental notification. Amendment opponents say publicly naming judges who allow the procedures would amount to an election campaign against them. Judges in Minnesota are elected by the public.
The House passed the anti-abortion provision 81-50.
The portion of the Senate bill that passed - but is not included in a House budget bill - would add nearly $35 million to school funding.
Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said one-time aid the Senate would send to school districts amounts to property tax relief for Minnesotans. It would increase funding $34.50 for the average public school student.
The per-pupil increases - a total of $32.2 million - could be used for reducing class sizes, adding all-day kindergarten or handling increase energy costs.
Moorhead schools would gain $218,161 next year under the Senate bill. Barnesville would receive $31,291 more, Hawley $35,161, Detroit Lakes $177,972, Frazee $105,578, Mahnomen $29,000, Fergus Falls $102,083, Ulen-Hitterdal $11,062 and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton $47,349.
The bill passed Monday night also would spend:
- $20 million to clean up the state's water.
- $14 million to increase state child care payments.
- $11.5 million for people who lost federal drug insurance payments.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707