We received the updated budget forecast Tuesday and it indicates a $209 million improvement in the short term, leaving us with a deficit of $994 million. The caveat is there is a $5.8 billion deficit projected for the 2012-13 biennium, an increase of $400,000. A rise in employment could improve the long-term outlook and that's a reasonable hope since Minnesota added 15,000 jobs in January, the largest single-month increase since April of 2005.
Here's an update regarding two other rather fluid issues at the Capitol: the bonding bill and GAMC.
The governor's veto of a GAMC extension was upheld during an override attempt Monday. The bill extends GAMC another year with no solution beyond that and my desire is for negotiations to continue so we can find some meaningful solutions. The vote was to continue negotiations on long-term fix so we can make good on the promises we have made to care for these people. Negotiations resumed shortly after yesterday's vote and progress is being made.
We all want to see genuine needs of our citizens met, but the current system will go bankrupt in a year or so and then people in need will be without a program. We just can't continue down an unsustainable course.
We can do better and still have time left in this session to come up with substantive improvements. One proposal reforms MinnesotaCare to a defined contribution model which delivers good, basic coverage to low-income Minnesotans, pays hospitals and providers better, and saves Minnesota more than $300 million per year. That is money we can use to help provide care and coverage to those who are most in need - without raising taxes. This plan is receiving more and more support from both sides of the aisle and that's what we need.
Meantime, we still are waiting for a committee to emerge with an updated version of a $1.1 billion capital investment bill to fund projects all across the state. The committee has been meeting to whittle down the original bill to around $700 million, funding the necessities like Red River Valley flood mitigation and crucial infrastructure projects. There was speculation the report would be issued this week, but it looks like it may take a little longer as progress continues to be made during meetings.