Budget Forecast and Addressing Forever Chemicals

The Minnesota Management and Budget office recently announced the February forecast. This news tells us the shape of Minnesota’s economy. Since the November forecast, the state’s expected budgetary balance increased $181 million since the November forecast, leaving Minnesota with a projected positive budget balance of $1.513 billion for the FY 2020-21 biennium.

Most of the $1.513 billion budgetary balance consists of one-time money. At the same time, it does not consider inflation, federal uncertainty, or the potential of an economic slowdown. What it does tell us is that we must be extra cautious with the choices we make this session, and that we must be careful with any new spending. For the long-term health of the state’s fiscal stability, we must strike the right balance between strengthening our reserves and any one-time spending. 

While we will have important work to do in terms of what to do with any potential one-time money or spending, we also have very important policy work to do. One of the issues I’m focused on is addressing water contamination and the presence of forever chemicals like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our area’s water. I am carrying several pieces of legislation that will help ensure the best practices are being enacted to mitigate, remediate, and eliminate these substances.

Senate File 518, would provide funding for the University of Minnesota to review existing data to see if there is additional health risks that we should be aware of as residents of the east metro area. We are lucky to have such a strong research university in our own backyard, and we must work to be certain that we have the best information available on PFAS effects. Our policies should be informed by the best available science, and there’s no better partner for this than the University of Minnesota.

It’s also time to update our standards for contamination in our ground water. Senate File 3222 would require the Commissioner of Health to amend the health risk limit for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). We would also designate perfluorochemicals as a hazardous substance (Senate File 3081), which would make Superfund money available to help cleanup and mitigation efforts.

There is no denying that PFAS should not be consumed. Yet, it continues to be used in food packaging for products throughout the state and country. For the safety of Minnesotans, we must prohibit its use in food packaging. My bill, Senate File 3225, would ban the use of these chemicals in food packaging, effective January 1, 2021. I am proud to be working with State Representative Anne Claflin, a scientist, on these vital pieces of legislation.

This is a very important issue for not just our community, but the entire state. The public comment period is now open for input on how to use the money from the 3M settlement. I encourage you to visit the site and provide your opinion on what should be done. More information is available here: https://3msettlement.state.mn.us/. If you’d like more information about this or any other issue in the 2020 Session, please reach out to my office.  

-By Senator Karla Bigham

Senator Karla Bigham
Karla Bigham represents District 54 in the southeast Twin Cities metro, including parts of Dakota and Washington counties.

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