To the editor-
We received the latest state budget forecast and it shows a $1.2 billion shortfall for the current two-year state budget, and a $5.4 billion deficit for the following biennium.
Those numbers put Minnesota in the same economic boat as other states with comparable make-ups. Our state economist said 70 percent of our budget shortfall is linked to a reduction in state revenue caused by higher unemployment rates and less wages being paid to workers.
There are two ways we can balance the budget: cut government spending or increase tax revenue. The best way for us to gain more tax revenue is by developing a pro-business climate, helping to create new jobs and broaden the tax base. Economic experts indicate our economy will begin to bounce back in 2010. A slow increase in employment next year was factored into the forecast, along with an increase in income taxes from an improving stock market.
That does not change the fact we must address this issue early in the 2010 legislative session, which begins in February. By delaying, we risk more unallotments being made to balance the budget and nobody – not even Gov. Pawlenty – wants to see that happen.
We need to start by kick-starting the job market in Greater Minnesota, with the focus on creating sustainable jobs in the private sector. As a member of the Small-Business Caucus, I will be involved in this process first-hand.
The thing we should ask our business owners is this: What can the state do to get out of your way and let your business grow? I recently met with a number of local small-business owners and they stressed the best thing we can do to help them thrive is to stop overwhelming them with regulations. This overregulation makes the cost of doing business in Minnesota higher than in other states, consequently putting us at a disadvantage.
I am in the process of setting up a series of town hall meetings throughout our area and I welcome your input during those events. Most of us have holiday-related things on our minds, so we’ll wait until January to conduct these meetings. I will pass along a schedule when it is finalized.
Dean Urdahl represents District 18B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The district includes most of Meeker County and a portion of Wright County. This is Urdahl’s fourth term in the Legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.