(St. Paul, MN)- When I returned to office in 2012, our state was facing a $1 billion deficit. After stabilizing our state’s finances for the first time in over a decade, previous indicators released earlier this year suggested that the state would have a budget surplus of roughly $1 billion; last week’s release revealed that our state is projected to have a $1.869 billion surplus. The non-partisan office of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) releases the February Forecast each year as a more accurate indicator of the budget and economic forecast for Minnesota. This year’s forecast shows how the work of the last few years to pass an honest budget, without gimmicks or borrowing, has created the confidence and stability necessary for strengthening Minnesota’s economic growth. Without the investments of the previous two years that stabilized our state finances, such an optimistic forecast would be impossible.
This year’s strong economic forecast also confirms we must continue this path of building a state budget that not only reflects the priorities of all Minnesotans, but continues a path of fiscal responsibility. It is great news that Minnesota has finally broken the pattern of budget deficits, but it is important to remember that the 2015 surplus does not represent ongoing revenue for the state, so we must be careful when applying it toward ongoing financial commitments. For example, I have been a part of major discussions both inside and outside the Capitol over how best to fund our crumbling transportation system in the long term- clearly, a one or two year funding stream is not enough to restore our state’s critical infrastructure.
As we continue to discuss the best uses for this surplus, one this is clear: additional investments must keep Minnesota’s economy on the right track. I am committed to investing in the most basic engines of economic growth–¬ our schools. After years of uncertainty and underfunding, our schools are still recovering financially. Many small and medium-sized districts like those in our area have had difficulty updating school buildings or even making basic repairs. One of the bills I am carrying this year would bring our schools up to the same funding levels as the large schools in the suburbs and metro, and the increased surplus gives me hope that we will see this policy become law. In addition, we must prioritize making long term care more affordable, supporting our nursing home employees, and reigning in high tuition costs.
The path ahead of us may not be easy, but it is great news that Minnesota’s economy is doing better than expected, unemployment is down, and we have a budget surplus that allows us more flexibility to make strategic investments in our future. Please reach out to me with your ideas for the surplus, and I look forward to continuing to represent you in the Minnesota Senate.