It will be dja-vu all over again for state senators and representatives returning to St. Paul in 2013, as budget officials have projected a $1.1 billion budget deficit for the 2014-15 biennium.
That's the bad news.
The good news is, that number is nowhere near what the state was facing a couple years ago.
That being said, there is plenty of work to be done in 2013, and this year, it's the Democrats who will be under the spotlight. Democrats will be in control of both the House and Senate for at least the next two years - a reversal from what we saw in 2011 and 2012 when the GOP ran the show under a DFL governor.
This coming year, our elected officials won't be dealing with an election or debates over constitutional amendments. They won't have to concern themselves with stadium issues. And this deficit pales in comparison to previous years ($5.27 billion in 2008, $6.2 billion in 2010). The slate, relatively speaking, is pretty clear, meaning they can focus on shrinking that deficit even more and getting this state back into the black.
It appears politicians have everything going in their favor as they approach a new year and a new, smaller deficit, so it would be wise of them to find common ground on the budget as quickly as possible. Anything less should be considered a failure.
We don't expect another state shutdown in 2013; in fact, we would be blown away if it came to that. But it's up to our elected officials to make sure it doesn't happen, and in order to do that, both sides need to realize they will have to give a little when it comes to taxes and spending. Otherwise, we're in for more short-term fixes and gimmicks at best. Gov. Dayton gave in on his tax-the-rich plan in 2011 to end the shutdown, but let's not kid ourselves - it would be quite a stretch to believe he will cave again in 2013.
Nothing will come easy, but if our elected officials fail to compromise and fix this deficit on time in 2013, we can look back and firmly say they didn't deserve our vote.