This past Tuesday, Representatives David Bly, Patti Fritz, and I visited with Rice County Commissioners and several other Rice county officials. It was a good meeting with an opportunity to hear the concerns of our county leaders who have some real concerns with the state budget and its effects on county services.
The point was made clearly by County Administrator Gary Weiers that County governments are finding it increasingly difficult to carry out the federal and state government’s business with continued cuts to County program aid. Without reducing the mandates, business as usual cannot continue. In 2010 State funding to Rice County was reduced by over $1.3 million. Revenue reductions without mandated reductions are a cost shift from state to local governments. This has a big effect on social services, our district courts, and the dozens of agencies and departments that allow local government work to for Rice County residents.
Paul Beaumaster, Rice County attorney, expressed concerns that reductions to the courts are impacting counties by attempting to shift costs for legal representation in certain cases. Lines have become blurred as to who should pay the real costs of our court system, the state or the county? Mark Shaw, director of Social services, expressed his concerns that severe budget cuts now will have long term implications later. Those people served by county services, even more during the recession, will have greater needs at greater taxpayer expense, unless they receive help now. With the state facing a $6-7 billion shortfall next biennium, we need to be talking about solutions now. The Representatives and I will be meeting with County officials throughout the district in the months to come.