Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pioneer Press: Minnesota, Wisconsin looking to help each other save

By Bill Salisbury

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle today signed an agreement to share services in order to cut costs and help both states cope with big budget deficits.

The pact directs agency heads in both states to identify possible areas of cooperation that would cut costs and provide services more efficiently. Minnesota faces a $4.8 billion budget shortfall over the next two years while Wisconsin has a $5.4 billion projected deficit.

During a press conference at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul, Pawlenty, a Republican who initiated the idea, called the agreement a "unique partnership" that has not been tried by other states.

Pawlenty didn't know how much the two states would save but said it would be "millions of dollars and maybe more."

Doyle, a Democrat, said it was an "enormously important opportunity" for both states. Wisconsin and Minnesota are similar in many ways, he said, and both states need to find ways to cut government spending during the current recession.

How would it work? Here's one example: The two states combined buy more than 600 tons of road salt every winter. Pawlenty said they could save nearly $1 million by bulk purchasing.

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