Senator Greg Clausen: Budgeting for One Minnesota
In the past two weeks, two major legislative events have set the tone for upcoming budget discussions in the legislature: Governor Walz’s budget proposal and the February forecast. Governor Walz’s budget proposal revealed his priorities, including education, healthcare, and transportation. The February forecast provides the funding framework to put together our two-year budget.
The forecast also serves to inform legislators about how much money we have to invest in our state. Back in November, the forecasted budget surplus was about $1.5 billion – last week it was reduced by one-third to $1 billion. Additionally, the available funds are one-time money – so we can’t use them for ongoing spending needs, which poses a difficult challenge. While lawmakers will still benefit from a budget surplus, the multi-million-dollar reduction in the forecast will have a major impact on spending priorities.
I agree with Governor Walz on the importance of improving our communities, investing in education, and increasing accessibility of healthcare. I was especially pleased that his budget would implement historic levels of funding for our schools, establish a public option to drive down health care costs, expand access to high-quality healthcare, and support necessary improvements to our state’s infrastructure. His budget proposal also makes real strides to restore local government aid to cities and counties to provide local property tax relief for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.
I also support the governor’s proposed investment in Minnesota’s transportation network. Our state continues to grow, putting more strain on our existing transportation network, and current funding does not do enough to address our more than $6 billion transportation funding deficits, let alone handle continued growth. We have neglected Minnesota’s transportation needs for far too long. Now is the time to support real meaningful investment in our roads, bridges, and transit network.
However, in light of the downtrend in the budget forecast, it is crucial that the legislature avoids making promises it can’t keep. The projected budget funds we have now covers the next two years, but if we aren’t careful, the government is at risk of falling back into a budget deficit. The only way to guarantee continuity of funding is to look at ways to increase revenue. Recently released data shows that the state had collected over $350 million less in tax revenues than expected since the last economic forecast, and if this trend continues, we will run out of funds to maintain critical programs we all value.
As we move toward negotiating our two-year state budget, I am hopeful that the legislature will be able to start the long-overdue journey towards improving the quality of life for all of our citizens. To invest in our youth is to invest in our future. Our children will be the ones drafting legislation and working to help Minnesota reach its full potential before long. By finding solutions to make health care more affordable, our citizens will have more financial stability and income to invest in our economy.
As we work through the budget for the next two-year biennium, I will work to keep you updated on what transpires. Please reach out to me with your comments and suggestions on this issue and any others that I may be able to help you with. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4120 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail letters or pay me a visit in the Minnesota Senate Building, Room 2233, right across the street from the Capitol.