By State Rep. Dean Urdahl
The 2010 legislative session is getting underway and we will be presented with numerous challenges, namely erasing a state budget deficit and helping people get back to work.
Here is a snapshot of what we expect to be in headlines the next few months:
Our latest budget forecast projects a $1.203 billion deficit in the current 2-year cycle and the projected shortfall for the 2012-2013 budget is $5.4 billion. That number could rise if a court forces unallotments made by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to be restored.
One big reason for our budget shortfall is our rise in unemployment has left the state with less income tax revenue. Helping people get back to work would go a long way toward providing a more stable future. The latest Tax Foundation rankings show Minnesota’s business climate is 41st nationally and I am drafting a bill to help our standing. We need to improve in that area because the global market is extremely competitive; our state lags behind both Dakotas and Wisconsin and a South Dakota group is making its pitch on Minnesota radio stations, actively attempting to lure our businesses across the border.
The Legislature is scheduled to authorize a bonding bill this session as the state borrows money to fund projects ranging from wastewater treatment to parks and museums. This will be a contentious issue. Some legislators will say we should not have a bonding bill while others will say funding these projects will help put people to work at a time we need it most.
The legislative majority probably will end up proposing a bonding bill of around $1 billion, somewhat larger than what Pawlenty proposes. We cannot afford to neglect our infrastructure, but any borrowing must be at a responsible, affordable amount.
Spending cuts may be necessary to balance our budget, but we must do all we can to preserve education funding. A number of schools already are facing delays in state aid, a move mandated by a state law which says school funding must be pushed back as much as possible before any cash flow borrowing can occur. The funding must be fully restored to the affected districts by May 30.
We are all hoping for the best in Minnesota this session, but we also will have to keep an eye on what transpires in Washington, D.C. It is difficult to predict what will happen at the federal level, but Congress’ actions may impact what transpires in Minnesota.
I welcome your input on these or other issues throughout the session. You can reach me by e-mailing Rep.Dean.Urdahl@house.mn or by calling 800-920-5861. More information also is available at my legislative Web site: www.house.mn/18B.
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.