I hope your holiday season is off to a good start. The biggest news at the state level recently was the release of the state's new economic forecast, which points to a $1.87 billion surplus for fiscal years 2016-17.
The 2016 session is not, by definition, a budget year, but this surplus will be a big topic of discussion as we weigh different ways to apply it.
This is good news and taxpayers are the ones who should benefit. The state's excess revenue is the result of Minnesotans being overtaxed and this highlights the importance of reducing taxes during the 2016 session.
A good place to start would be ending the state's practice of taxing Social Security income. Seniors often are overlooked when we talk about tax reductions, but this would be a great help for them. We also could provide some additional funding for roads and bridges. In any case, surplus revenue should be used for priorities such as these instead of being viewed as a license to spend on a government wish list.
The $1.87 billion surplus projection will serve as a rough framework as we prepare for the session to start, but the February forecast will provide the official numbers.
As for other news, I attended the Freshwater School District's annual meeting this morning, along with fellow Rep. Mary Franson, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and other legislators.
Freshwater serves a number of school districts in our area and provides programming for students with special needs. We discussed a wide variety of subjects, from a shortage of teachers, to concurrent enrollment, mental illnesses and beyond. One thing that is alarming to me is the significant number of children who have mental illnesses at very young ages. There are many causes for this, especially where there are issues at home, and it presents an extra set of challenges for staff.
Thank you to the people at Freshwater for leading a productive discussion and for providing much-needed services in our communities. I look forward to continuing these talks at the legislative level.
On a final note, best wishes to Gov. Mark Dayton on his recovery after undergoing back surgery Monday at the Mayo Clinic.