For more information contact:
The February Economic Forecast was released by the Minnesota Management and Budget office a little over a week ago. This forecast has fostered intense discussions about the budget and expenditures in the 2016 legislative session. The forecast showed a projected surplus of $900 million for the remainder of the 2016-17 biennium. This is about $300 million less than the surplus projected in the November Forecast, which, after a shift of about $600 million to the budget reserve, showed a $1.2 billion surplus. The lower surplus number is largely attributed to slowing U.S. economic growth, largely due to depressed oil-related investments and a widening trade gap.
While it’s not good news that the surplus amount went down, the economic forecast also shows that Minnesota continues to have low unemployment and, overall, a stable budget; this is good news. This is the third consecutive February forecast projecting a surplus, after six in a row showing deficits.
Clearly, our economy is headed in the right direction, but we have so many ways in which we can expend opportunities for children, families, and all Minnesotans to succeed. Hopefully the Legislature and Governor can agree on funding ways to make the economy work for everybody, including pre-K and early childhood programs, freezing college tuition and relieving student debt, and funding vital transportation and transit infrastructure. These investments are proven routes to economic growth, impacting health, productivity, and the social fabric of our communities.
Governor’s Water Summit
Gov. Mark Dayton hosted a groundbreaking summit in late February to bring Minnesotans from all walks of life together to discuss one of the most pressing issues facing not just current Minnesota residents, but our children, grandchildren, and future generations as well: clean water.
Ground and surface water contamination, much of which is caused by runoff full of nitrates, as well as outdated wastewater infrastructure allowing phosphorous to enter our waterways at dangerous levels, is a problem that can no longer go ignored. I applaud the Governor calling on each of us to develop a “water ethic” and recognize that water use by all of us affects all other Minnesotans who rely on abundant and clean water both now and in the future.
While the summit itself was only one day, this is a conversation that will be ongoing during the legislative session and beyond. Gov. Dayton is seeking input from all corners of the state on this issue, and he invites you to share your thoughts by completing this survey, which you can take by clicking here.
Record Low Uninsured
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and University of Minnesota released a new report showing that Minnesota’s uninsured rate has dropped to an historic low. The percentage of Minnesotans without health insurance fell to 4.3 percent in 2015, nearly half the percentage in 2013. This means that 213,000 Minnesotans have gained access to coverage since 2013, with 38,000 of them being children. There is still progress to be made, as 22 percent of those uninsured are eligible for premium tax credits through MNsure. Through reforms, Minnesota is a leader nationwide toward improving both the affordability and the quality of health care our citizens receive.
Minnesota Compass, an initiative of Wilder Research, just released some new information from their research on civic engagement and I’d invite you to take some time and check out some of their findings. In short: Minnesotans are active participants in their communities. In all three key measures – voter turnout, volunteerism, and neighbors helping neighbors – we rank in the top 10 among all states. There are however, gaps in participation, specifically in the areas of race and age.
The report was released last month at the Minnesota Compass annual meeting. You can view the materials here.
As I close out this update, I’d like to take a second to note that the legislative session begins today. I hope you will continue to stay in touch in order to share your priorities thoughts about what you expect to see happen this session; feel free to call or email me anytime. Each day will be filled with visits from constituents like you, hearings and floor sessions. I will try, as always, to respond to your messages and requests as quickly as I can. During what I expect to be a “white water” session, I thank you for your patience.