The following press release was issued today by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities:

mymnbudgetSt. Paul, MN—With the state facing a $5.8 billion deficit, Minnesotans deserve detailed answers on how candidates for governor will close the budget gap, said the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman today at a press event as they unveiled a new website that will allow candidates and everyday Minnesotans to do precisely that.

The site,, provides an online budget simulator that recreates the state budget. Users can adjust state spending and taxes in order to bring Minnesota’s financial books back into balance. Users are also provided with descriptions of each state-funded program so that they can make informed decisions and have a better idea of each decision’s impact.

“We are only 65 days away from the election and have seen only partial details from the candidates for governor as to how they will solve the deficit. That’s not good enough. If an average Minnesotan can create a balanced budget with this tool, candidates should be able to do so, too,” said Steve Peterson, senior policy analyst for CGMC, the organization that designed the website.

Peterson said that it is critical for candidates to create a dollar-for-dollar budget plan with the budget simulator so that voters have a clear idea of how they will be impacted by choices such as tax increases or cuts in state services.

“Simply put, if you can’t tell us how you would balance the budget, should you be running for governor?” Peterson asked.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who has supported rural mayors in raising awareness of how state budget cuts impact cities, said exhaustively complete budget plans, such as those produced by the online budget simulator, will help local officials in the coming months as they plan their 2011 budgets.

“Whether you are the mayor of St. Paul, St. Peter or St. Martin, how the next governor deals with the budget deficit will affect your community more than any other decision you make at the local level,” Coleman said. “We are putting local budgets together that determine how many police officers and firefighters we can support, if our libraries can remain open, and whether property taxes will increase or not. We need answers from these candidates so that the public knows how they will personally be impacted, and so that city leaders can make planning decisions accordingly.”

CGMC, a non-partisan organization that represents 75 outstate cities, plans on holding news conferences around the state in the coming weeks to raise public awareness about the website.

 “Let me tell you, after I spent 5 minutes on the site, I have real awareness for how significant a nearly $6 billion dollar deficit is,” said Glencoe Mayor Randy Wilson. “These are very difficult decisions facing our state, and we hope this website will be a tool to engage the public, before the election, in understanding the size of the deficit and how their family and community will be impacted by the decisions made to balance it.”