To the editor:
We received an updated state budget forecast today (Tuesday) and our short term deficit is about 17 percent smaller at $994 million. That $209 million improvement, combined with the fact Minnesota gained 15,600 jobs in January gives us a ray of hope that we are coming out of this recession. Those new job gains represent the largest jump in any single month since April, 2005.
But this outlook is tempered by the fact the budget forecast also calls for our deficit to be $5.8 billion in the 2012 13 biennium, up $400,000 from the last report. Continued job gains could change that outlook, however, by providing the state with added income tax revenue.
Today's news should be met with caution as we work to balance the budget this session. The Legislature's majority still has not unveiled its plan to accomplish that, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty said today he'd like leadership to present a balanced budget plan as soon as possible, but no later than March 17. That would give us two months before the end of the legislative session to approve a plan. That could spare us from some of the last minute headaches we've suffered the last couple years.
We still are waiting for a committee to emerge with an updated version of a capital investment bill to borrow $1.1 billion to fund projects all across the state. The plan was for the committee to eliminate the unnecessary projects that made the bill too expensive so we could get a more affordable model (in the $700 million range) that focuses on the necessities, including flood mitigation in the Red River Valley and critical infrastructure. I hope some legislators do not view today's budget forecast as a license to spend another $209 million.
Rep. Bud Nornes