Greetings from the Capitol, where this week we received a new economic forecast and where hearings on the state health insurance exchange have concluded. Here is an update of those subjects and more.
GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS
Budgetary controls Republicans enacted in 2011-12 are continuing to produce results. A fourth consecutive economic forecast indicates the state has received more revenue than previously projected.
Our state’s economy has been steadily improving the last two years without raising taxes, or in part, because taxes were not raised.
Not only does the new report from Minnesota Management & Budget show a $295 million balance for the $2012-13 biennium, but the projected shortfall for 2014-15 shrank by $463 million (more than 40 percent) since last November.
The MMB report also predicts a $782 million balance in 2016-17, up from $263 million in the last forecast.
By law, $290 million of the latest surplus will go toward paying off delayed K-12 funding (the “shifts” in 2010 and 2011). The other $5 million will be placed in state reserves, also according to law.
This is great news for Minnesota taxpayers. The historic $3.7 billion in new taxes and tax increases the governor proposes would clearly threaten the great strides the state is making. We do not need tax increases to balance our budget. A better option is to keep spending to within the estimated 3-percent revenue growth and to resist the push for taxes which would stifle the economy’s resurgence.
We have not yet fully recovered from a massive recession and we should be promoting more growth, not pushing for taxes which would stifle our resurgence. I encourage the current majority to recognize this and act accordingly.
HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE
We anticipate a vote of the full House Monday regarding the implementation of a health insurance exchange in Minnesota. There remains a wide range of concerns over this plan and it seems we still have more questions than answers.
The exchange would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and operate, unlike exchanges in other states. We in the minority have worked diligently to provide substantive improvements to this proposal, but Democrats in the majority have not accepted our ideas.
This is an extremely important subject and I remain dedicated to helping make this a bipartisan plan but, the way it stands now, Democrat legislators and unions are the only ones who support the proposal.
I will let you know what develops, but we expect a spirited discussion on the House floor Monday. In case you missed it here is a link to a recent email update I sent with more details on this proposed health care exchange.
UNCLAIMED PROPERTY – YOURS?
Our State’s Unclaimed Property Program was created in 1969 to ensure that money that businesses owed to Minnesotans was held in the public interest and returned to the extent possible to Minnesota’s consumers. Go to www.missingmoney.com or visit the Commerce Department's Unclaimed Property website. It takes less than 30 seconds to check to see if you may be in the group of one in 20 Minnesotans who have missing money.
BILLS I’VE AUTHORED
Two bills I have authored to help local entities are advancing through the House.
One bill (HF 1050) would conduct a feasibility study of collaboration among local cities to create more efficiency and sustainability of water supplies in our sewer and water system. The cities involved are Centerville, Circle Pines, Columbus, Hugo, Lexington and Lino Lakes. Local leaders in all six cities have been very helpful in working together to determine if a new approach would be doable and save taxpayers money.
The other bill (HF 1049) would provide citizens with the ability to conduct a reverse referendum if a large local capital expenditure is authorized and uses a bonding tool that circumvents the voters. This would close a loophole that is becoming popular with municipal bound houses. I will provide more information on these as things develop.