Senator Tony Lourey: Approach the good news of the surplus with caution
The recent release of the February forecast shows Minnesota is doing well, and will have an estimated surplus of $1.65 billion in 2018-19. I’m very proud of the hard work done over the past five years. Minnesota has overcome significant budget deficits and now has a surplus of $1.65 billion, a $250 million increase from the November forecast.
However, while the current financial outlook is optimistic, there is still uncertainty that could negatively impact the financial standing of our state. Uncertainty in Washington and federal policy means we must remain cautious and be fiscally responsible. Federal trade policy changes could have serious impacts on growth, and any changes in healthcare spending could have significant repercussions for the state. Estimates of one Washington proposal on health care indicates that Minnesota will lose $5 billion in federal funding by 2021, creating a massive hole in the state budget. While the economy is stable now, the legislature must make responsible investments to ensure Minnesota maintains its economic health in the future.
Now is the time to create a budget that will work for all Minnesotans. This means not only balanced investments in policies that support Minnesotans, but also rejecting drastic, unsustainable spending programs. In the Senate Taxes Committee alone, there has been more than $3 billion proposed in new spending – more than twice our surplus. Other proposals are looking to raid our budget reserve for non-emergency projects, potentially jeopardizing our recently restored credit score and Minnesota’s long-term fiscal health. We cannot sacrifice our hard-won economic stability for legislators’ pet projects.
I want to focus on passing a budget that protects the state’s reserve in this time of uncertainty and focuses on legislation that improves quality of life for people across the state, such as a comprehensive transportation package, education investments, a sensible tax bill, and a jobs bill that will support all Minnesotans. Our focus must be on providing opportunity for ordinary Minnesotans who continue to be squeezed by an economy that has not been working for everyone.
As in past sessions, I will continue to focus on strengthening the state through responsible spending. In the upcoming weeks, I look forward to working on legislation that is both fiscally responsible and beneficial to all Minnesotans.
The Pine City Pioneer first published this column.