In St. Paul this week, Minnesota Management & Budget issued an updated state economic forecast and it shows a $1.65 billion surplus through the 2018-19 biennium. This represents an increase of about $250 million over the previous full forecast released in December.
This is good news and is further evidence the good budget practices House Republicans brought to the Capitol are producing results. A strong bottom line will be helpful in providing Minnesotans with tax relief and putting additional funding toward other priority areas.
Even though the state has a surplus, it remains crucial that we keep our overall spending at a responsible level to help stabilize us for the long term. The MMB reports significant risks remain, especially at the federal level where uncertainty in international trade and health care could impact our state. Decisions we make this year should bear that in mind so we can set a responsible spending total that limits our exposure to downturns.
Receiving this updated economic information allows us to start formulating a new two-year state budget. House finance committees already have begun hearing from stakeholders to discuss budgets for their respective areas. University of Minnesota officials this week appeared before the committee on higher education, which I chair. This was an opportunity to discuss the system’s budget, all in preparation for assembling a formal higher education package over the next few weeks. Otter Tail County Commissioner Doug Huebsch, a U of M graduate and Perham business owner, testified to the committee in support of the U of M.
Look for details once the higher ed. bill comes together, but students will be the focus as we work toward increasing affordability in higher education. This includes funding the state grant program to help students from low- and moderate-income families pay for educational expenses.
On a couple of local notes, I continue working on a bill I authored to allow the sales tax referendum Fergus Falls citizens approved for library to take effect. The bill ordinarily would be part of an omnibus tax package later this session but I am hoping it can be considered separately. It is a technical bill which only applies to Fergus Falls and there is no statewide impact, so the hope is this can move on a faster track.
Another bill I have authored to provide an exemption on state sales taxes for resorts looking update/modernize their facilities is advancing through the House as well.
I will pass along more as these and other issues develop. Until then, your correspondence always is welcome.