The 2011 legislative session will present many challenges to the Legislature and Gov. Dayton. One of the biggest issues, and one that will take months of debate, is balancing the state’s $6 billion budget deficit. The next few months will be difficult as we discuss possible solutions, but we are presented with the opportunity to position Minnesota for long-term economic success and we need to do everything we can to achieve that goal.
In December, the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), the state’s finance department, presented their biannual economic forecast for the state. Their document explained that the budget fixes for the 2010-11 budget were aided by short-term federal subsidies and one-time budget reductions and significant changes for the future were not taken. We cannot continue this trend and under Gov. Dayton we are hopeful that our actions this biennium will not just push the budget problem off to future years.
For a deeper look at the state’s budget, visit MMB’s website at www.mmb.state.mn.us. There you will find MMB’s complete forecast as well as charts and graphs on our state’s spending. One interesting pie chart I encourage you to look into is the “General Fund Pie Charts,” which provides the breakdown of General Fund dollars:
• K-12 Education – 37.8%
• Health and Human Services – 28.6%
• Higher Education – 9.3%
• Property Tax Aids and Credits – 10%
• Public Safety – 6%
• Debt Service – 2.8%
• State Government – 2.1%
• Environment and Natural Resources – 1%
• Economic Development – 0.9%
• Agriculture and Veterans – 0.8%
• Transportation – 0.6%
• Capital Projects & Other – 0.1%
Over the next few months you will hear heavy debate and political rhetoric on whether we should balance the budget with new revenue or by cuts alone. The real answer likely exists somewhere in the middle and legislators need to work to find a compromise that will benefit the state, not political poll numbers. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
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 home 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.