Perhaps the most important role of the Legislature is the role it plays in creating a state budget. We must create a budget covering areas from education to transportation, human services to natural resources, and many other issues that make a daily impact on the lives of Minnesotans,
The budget is the biggest item on the agenda for my colleagues in both the Senate and the House this year. Entering the third month of the 2019 Legislative Session, we have a clearer picture of our state’s economic outlook with the updated February Forecast we received on February 28.
According to the Minnesota Management and Budget office, the state has a positive budget balance of just over $1 billion, a balance that has decreased $492 million since November. On the one hand, our economy continues to do well; but on the other hand, this decrease, and the potential for a future economic downturn, is concerning. It’s up to us to balance the need for forward-thinking investment in our priorities and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars. We cannot jeopardize the long-term health of the state’s finances with short-term decisions.
Before the release of the February Forecast, Governor Walz unveiled his $49.6 billion budget proposal, which had a special focus on education. It would make a historic investment in the basic funding formula, guaranteeing that every student in Minnesota gets a world-class education. It also invests in vital support services, such as counselors and social workers, who provide valuable assistance for thousands of students. I’m also happy to see the focus on recruitment and retention of more teachers of color. We must also make sure that Minnesota’s teachers reflect the growing diversity of our student population.
In addition to this support for education, his budget prioritizes values Minnesotans share, like expanding access and reducing the costs of health care, increasing support for our local communities, and addressing the funding shortfalls faced by our transportation network. However, his budget was proposed before the new forecast. Over the next few weeks a new proposal will be released reflecting the updated economic outlook.
Though the numbers may change, I believe what Governor Walz has proposed is a smart approach for our state. Now it is up to us in the Senate and the House to get to work in committee and create a budget that reflects the priorities on the minds of families and working Minnesotans. I’m optimistic that we can find common ground and show the country that divided government can be good government, where consensus is possible.
What’s most important over these next few weeks and months of the 2019 Legislative Session, is for you to make your voice heard. Please reach out to my office and I with your comments, questions, and concerns, and let me know how I can be of any service to you.