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State Representative Jenifer Loon

449 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7449

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Posted: 2012-03-05 00:00:00
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Email update

Capitol roundup


Greetings from the Capitol!

In this issue:

1. March 10 town hall meeting in EP
2. Another budget surplus in state forecast
3. Vikings stadium “deal”

1. March 10 town hall meeting in EP

Thank you to those who braved the elements to participate in last Tuesday's listening sessions I hosted at Eden Prairie City Hall. I really enjoy meeting with District 42B residents on a personal level and appreciate the suggestions and questions I receive.

I also invite local citizens to attend a more traditional town hall meeting I will be hosting 10 to 11:30 a.m. this Saturday, March 10 in the large meeting room of the Eden Prairie Library (565 Prairie Center Dr., Eden Prairie).

These meetings are especially timely as this session’s top bills will be coming to the floor in the next several weeks. It is important for legislators to receive all the feedback we can from local citizens so we can apply that information to our decision-making process. If you are able to attend, I look forward to seeing you then!

2. Another budget surplus in state forecast

Minnesota Management & Budget issued its February economic forecast last Wednesday and it indicates our budget surplus will grow by another $323 million. That is the second straight economic forecast to project a surplus and a strong sign our state economy is recovering from the recession.

The new budget surplus is in addition to the $876 million surplus forecast in November. This news is remarkable because it marks a $6.3 billion turnaround in the State's budget picture over the past 15 months. We erased a $5.1 billion shortfall in crafting the biennial budget for Fiscal Years 2012-2013 and now have a combined $1.2 billion in surplus funds the last few months alone. Approximately half of the $1.2 billion surplus is from lower government spending (less than projected demand for government programs, etc.)

Our Constitution requires that surplus revenue be used first to replenish the State's cash-flow accounts and budget reserves which had been drained during the recession. The outstanding news with this forecast is that at least $318 million (the surplus remaining after the cash and reserve funds are fully restored) will go toward paying back shifted K-12 funds. The shift enacted as part of the budget agreement from last summer will be reduced by nearly half. Let’s hope the trend continues so we can ultimately pay off all delayed K-12 funds--the 10-percent shift in the 2012-2013 budget in addition to the 20-percent shift we inherited from the previous legislative majority.

The budget we put in place is producing beyond expectations as key reforms to improve efficiency and reduce the rate of growth in several programs takes root. Our spending is now adjusted down to a projected $33.8 billion this biennium, less than the $34 billion many set as the threshold of responsibility last year. Our unemployment rate is down to 5.6 percent, compared with the 8.3-percent national average. More than 27,000 jobs have been added in Minnesota the last two months alone as we continue to outpace most other states in economic recovery.

While there is certainly more work to be done, we have come a long way when you consider the dire situation the new Legislature walked into last session. We faced a negative economy and worked to make improvements that would put us on a better long-term path. While our decisions were often difficult, I believe our priorities of limiting government growth, protecting taxpayers and creating opportunity for private-sector job growth are producing results.

There is a lot more we can and must do to ensure a secure future for Minnesota. We have an unacceptable achievement gap in our education system with poor and minority children being left behind. Our state’s business climate is among the nation’s coldest--ranking 45th out of 50 according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation. But the budget surplus is reason for optimism and should inspire us to make even more improvements.

The upcoming town hall meeting will provide a great opportunity to talk about this topic and whatever else is on your mind. I hope you can attend and share in the discussion. Here is a link to the Minnesota Management & Budget documents regarding the economic forecast: http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/feb-forecast

3. Vikings stadium "deal"

Word of a Vikings stadium “deal” made headlines throughout the state last week. Please bear in mind a formal bill has not yet been introduced in the Legislature, so I and other legislators that have not been part of the negotiating meetings have many questions about the details of the proposal. The bill could be introduced today, but here are the basics of the framework that have been reported:

The stadium would include the current Metrodome site and adjacent land.
It would cost $975 million and open in 2016.
The Vikings and “other private sources” would pay $427 million.
The state would authorize electronic pull-tabs in bars/restaurants and use that revenue to pay $398 million.
Minneapolis would pay $150 million.

I will keep you informed as this issue and others unfold and I have more information to share. In the meantime, if you have an initial reaction or thoughts on this topic, I invite you to email me back and let me know.

Thanks for taking the time to read this update and I hope to see you this Saturday, the 10th.

Best regards,
Jenifer

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