- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

Illinois — Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered state agencies to cut their budgets 10 percent but backed off reports he planned to shift this year's $1.2 billion deficit to next year. Blagojevich postponed another $1.7 billion in spending through the end of the fiscal year and also proposed a complicated borrowing plan designed to wipe out half the state's estimated $4.8 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. The governor wants to refinance the debt to take advantage of low interest rates and estimates it could free up as much as $1.9 billion. The current fiscal year expires June 30. Blagojevich has until April 9 to present his fiscal 2004 spending plan.

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Indiana — Lawmakers killed a measure legalizing slot-machine-like gambling at racetracks and off-track betting parlors after learning a wealthy political contributor had just purchased a share of Hoosier Park. The House voted along party lines to approve a $22.9 billion, biennial budget that provides a 2 percent increase in school funding, taps into one-time transfers and spends nearly $1 billion more than the state expects to take in.

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Iowa — The Senate voted to increase school aid by $42.3 million, or 2 percent, for the 2004-05 school year, bringing total state funding to $1.87 million. Gov. Tom Vilsack signed a supplemental appropriations bill that boosts funding for prisons, state police and other agencies. Partisan sniping broke out over Republican proposals for cuts in the state budget Democrats say will benefit the rich. The House approved a measure that would lift the $5 limit on parking tickets, giving cities the ability to raise penalties for the first time in three decades.

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Kansas — Two lawmakers have unveiled a plan that requires the state to report accurately exactly how much has been spent on a regular basis, eliminated "revenue transfers." The measure would require the budget office or the director of legislative research to compose a revised budget based on the actual expenditures once or twice a year. A Senate panel moved to block President Bush's proposal to end the taxation of dividends but the full Senate defeated the measure. The state is facing a $750 million gap for fiscal 2004.

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Kentucky — The Senate approved a $14 billion, two-year state budget, adequately funding education and human services despite projected deficits. The measure now must be reconciled with the House version.

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Michigan — Gov. Jennifer Granholm said as many as 2,000 state employees will have to be laid off unless the state can win contract concessions. The budget Granholm is planning to unveil March 6 is expected to have as much as a $1.7 billion shortfall for the year beginning Oct. 1. She ordered $158 million cut from this year's spending plan. Lawmakers have proposed the state sell the governor's residence on Mackinac Island to save money.

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Minnesota — Minnesota's budget deficit is estimated to have grown another $25 milion to nearly $4.23 billion through fiscal 2005. Sen. Jim Vickerman, D-Tracy, promises to fight $42 million in agriculture budget cuts proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the bulk coming from the ethanol subsidy program. Proposal introduced that would allow the state lottery to put about 2,000 slot machines at Canterbury Park in hopes of generating $174 million in revenue. The state would receive 40 percent of the profits.

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Missouri — House committee cut the Medicaid program, recommending elimination of a health care program for children and reducing medical services for adults. Gov. Bob Holden called the measure "morally wrong."

The Legislature approved a plan to use up to $150 million in bond proceeds to balance the current fiscal year's budget, making it unnecessary to use money from the "rainy day fund." The measure awaits Holden's signature.

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Nebraska — Lawmakers consider measure that would allow Native American tribes to construct casinos on reservations and allow as many as five gambling halls within a two-mile "interdiction zone." The constitutional amendment needs 30 votes to get on the ballot for voter approval. The Nebraska Tax Research Council suggested balancing the budget by freezing state spending for the next two years and borrowing from agency cash funds. The Legislature considered combining some programs and departments at the University of Nebraska Omaha to save as much as $6.2 million.

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North Dakota — Second half of Legislature opened Monday. With the legislative session at its midpoint, the corporate income tax, lowering the drunk-driving threshhold to .08, a don't-call list for telemarketers and establishment of a multi-state lottery still are under consideration. Among the issues off the table are a proposed increase in the tobacco tax, salary increases for state employees and a state-mandated $1,500 increase in teachers pay. Trimmed from the budget was $4.5 million for prisons, $12 million for school funding, $16.2 million for the Department of Human Services and $3.4 million from the information technology budget.

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Ohio — The Senate rejected Gov. Bob Taft's proposed tax increase on cigarettes and alcohol. The House already has approved a bill rejecting increasing those taxes and instead speeds the collection of the state sales tax to raise $288 million and uses $121 million in surplus money. Taft said the only choice open to him now is to slash spending for schools, colleges and programs that benefit seniors. Ohio faces a $5 billion budget deficit over the next two years.

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South Dakota — Lawmakers began looking in earnest for places to cut the budget with just two weeks remaining in the 40-day session. Senate Health and Human Services committee endorsed Gov. Mike Rounds' proposal that could cut the cost of prescription drugs for seniors an average 20 percent. The prescription card drug program would cover some 8,000 medications for seniors, the disabled and those on Medicaid. The chairman of the House Education Committee proposed the resurrection of the school reorganization committee to determine which districts should be consolidated. The House voted to allow local governments to regulate tobacco and rejected an attempt to raise the cigarette tax $1 per pack.

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Wisconsin — Gov. Jim Doyle unveiled a two-year, $22.5 billion budget that eliminates a projected $3.2 billion deficit, holds taxes steady and provides an increase in spending for elementary and secondary education. In presenting his fiscal 2004-05 spending plan, Doyle said he did not want to waste time dickering over whose revenue projections were more accurate and would instead accept the numbers proffered by lawmakers. Doyle said he cut nearly $1.5 billion in state spending, making this budget the first in 30 years that spends less than previous biennial budget. The budget eliminates the departments of Electronic Government and Employee Relations and ends six boards whose functions are duplicated elsewhere; eliminates 2,900 government jobs and adds $100 million to K-12 spending.




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