As you know, the recent state budget forecast revealed that the state has a $323 million surplus. This means that the legislature will not have to make further cuts to needed services this session.
Current law specifies where the surplus will be allocated. A small portion of the surplus will be used to fill the budget reserve (the same happened following the November forecast). The rest of the money ($318 million) will be used to buy back the school shift. For more information on the February forecast, visit the Department of Management and Budget’s website at http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/.
The two deficits were created in last year’s legislative session. The solution to balancing the state’s budget included the use of budget reserves (sometimes called a “rainy day fund”) and borrowing money from our schools. After the $318 million is given back to our schools, the state still owes our schools $2.4 billion.
Minnesota continues to see positive signs in employment numbers. The most recent report from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) showed that employers added 15,500 jobs in the month of January. This infusion of jobs lowered Minnesota’s unemployment rate to 5.6 percent. For more information on Minnesota’s jobs numbers, visit DEED’s website at http://www.positivelyminnesota.com/.
So where does this leave us? We need to continue to move forward. The state is showing good signs of economic recovery and we need to do what we can to add to the recovery. Governor Dayton has revealed a modest capital investment bill aimed at getting Minnesotans back to work. I am hopeful that the legislature will take the governor’s lead and pass something similar.
The legislature needs to consider every possible way to pay off the debt to our schools. Weather it is closing corporate loopholes, drafting racino legislation or any other ideas; we need to ensure that our schools have the proper funding to offer our children a quality education.
The February forecast and the new jobs numbers are good news, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road and hope for good fortune. We don’t need to wait until next session to pay off more of this debt. I am hopeful that we can come together in a bipartisan manner to pay our schools back and stimulate economic growth.
As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions. 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.