Mid-Session Legislative Update
During last year’s campaign, I listened to folks across District 36 talk about the issues most important to them. We talked about a need to build an economy that creates good jobs. We talked about strengthening our education system so our kids from pre-k through college are supported and ready to compete in the new global economy. And we talked about balancing the state budget in a responsible, fair way. I took these conversations with me to the Capitol, and now at the midpoint of the 2013 legislative session, I’m proud to say we’re tackling these issues and moving good solutions forward.
Growing jobs and investing in education starts with balancing our state budget in a responsible and fair way. Since the start of the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers recognized that our most urgent task was addressing the projected $1.1 billion deficit inherited from previous budgets balanced with one-time money and borrowing. In February, this shortfall was nearly cut in half when an improved economic forecast reduced the deficit to $627 million. Yet, with an additional $800 million still owed to our schools, closing the budget shortfall honestly remains our most important job for Minnesota’s fiscal security.
Closing our deficit starts with a solid budget framework. The Governor, the House, and the Senate have all released their budget targets for the 2014-2015 biennium. Looking at the Senate’s targets, I am pleased to see its continued focus on new education investments, property tax relief for homeowners and small businesses, and new incentives to keep and create more jobs in Minnesota. We need to do better in Health and Human Services and I am working with colleagues to accomplish that.
In terms of new education investments, I’m co-authoring legislation authorizing funds for statewide voluntary all-day kindergarten. This investment has support in the Senate’s budget plan and the Governor’s proving that it’s a top legislative priority for this session.
I have also authored school funding equalization bills which also create real property tax relief. Equalization formulas haven’t changed in several years and the formulas haven’t responded to increasing property values and declining enrollments. This lack of change has arbitrarily made some districts, like Anoka-Hennepin, eligible for less state aid, despite changes in need. How we fund our schools matters and the discrepancies between school districts hurt our kids’ education and the future prosperity of Minnesota. We are still working on these bills in hope of creating a plan that helps education funding for kids across the state and relieves property taxes for Minnesotans.
Our budget is going to be built around some fairly simple, shared priorities. Making important investments in our kids’ education is crucial to our state’s future and attracting new jobs is integral to staying competitive in the 21st century global economy. As our budget comes together over the next couple of months, I look forward to hearing from folks back home about what we’re doing well and what needs improvement. Creating a better Minnesota is a statewide effort and I welcome your input. Feel free to reach out to my office via email at: email@example.com or by phone: (651) 206-4154. You can also learn more about my legislative activities by visiting my secondary webpage www.senate.mn/senatorhoffman and clicking “In Touch with Senator Hoffman.”