Minnesota budget debate begins

Over the next three months, the Legislature, Governor and members of the public will work out details of a solution to the state’s $6.2 billion budget deficit. This process will include four major steps: the Governor’s budget proposal, February forecast, Legislature’s proposal and the negotiation period.

The first step in the budget process has already taken place. Gov. Dayton unveiled his plan to balance the budget shortfall. Under his proposal:

· $4.129 billion of new revenue will be generated by asking the wealthiest 5% of Minnesotans to pay the same tax rate as the rest of the state.

· State spending will be reduced by $2.405 billion.

· $465 million will be invested in key priorities such as K-12 and early childhood education, public safety and veterans.

This budget is a starting point. The legislative process allows the Legislature and Minnesota citizens to analyze every aspect of the proposal and decide what works and what changes need to be made. For more information on the Governor’s proposal, visit the Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) website at http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/. The website offers information ranging from one page summaries to line-by-line breakdowns of every state dollar.

Step two in the budget process is the February forecast. State law requires MMB to prepare formal forecasts of state revenues and expenditures in November and February each year. The forecast information is used by the Governor and Legislature to ensure that enacted budgets remain on track and in balance. We expect to receive the forecast next week.

With the Governor’s recommendations and the February forecast in hand, the third step in the process calls on the Legislature to release their budget. This is where the public process takes place. Each aspect of the Senate and House of Representative’s plans will go through the committee process to discuss their impact on Minnesotans. I encourage all citizens to share their opinions. Write, call or visit your local legislator, write a Letter to the Editor for the local paper or ask to testify in the committee process.

The fourth and final step of the budget process is the negotiation period. The three budget proposals (Senate, House of Representatives and Governor) are often very different and this year will likely be no exception.

I am looking forward to seeing this process play out. We may all have different opinions on how to get there, but we are all have the same goal; a better Minnesota. It may seem like a messy process, but the ability to have these budget discussions in a public and civilized manor are what has made our country great. Please join us in this discussion.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions as needed. Please visit my Senate website at senate.mn/senatorwiger. I also encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your house or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16.

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Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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