By Rep. Dean Urdahl
I am pleased we put a budget in place during a special session this week to end the state shutdown and get a handle on state spending.
While I recognize there are some temporary fixes in this budget, I will remain committed to initiating and supporting structural improvements in the next legislative session. This is what will allow us to meet our commitments in a way we can afford, especially as we face an aging workforce.
Our final budget is for $34 billion in General Fund spending, a much lower rate of growth than the $39 billion budget we were on track to spend.
We did enact a number of crucial reforms in the budget we just enacted. Chiefly, the Health and Human Services portion of our budget was on track for a 22-percent spending increase this biennium, but reform allows us to put forth a more sustainable 4.8 percent. This will save us an estimated $13 billion over the next decade.
Some of the reforms include repealing a tax on medical services, cracking down on welfare fraud and providing some people who receive state-paid healthcare a voucher to purchase private healthcare coverage. We still were able to increase funding to rural nursing homes and pharmacies.
I am interested to see what these improvements and others produce in terms of savings for taxpayers. We were forced to use very conservative estimates when we constructed our budget and I fully anticipate the reforms we made will actually lead to more significant savings and ultimately an improved budget forecast down the road.
We all can find dislikes in the new budget, especially the shift in K-12 funding. But school officials will tell you they favor that over straight cuts and least it is less of a shift than the governor was proposing. We also were able to provide an additional $50 per pupil in education funding.
Thank you to all the people who continued to offer me their support during the regular 2011 session and through the recent special session. Our work is far from over and your encouragement makes me eager to get back to the Capitol in 2012 so we can continue the process of overhauling to maximize the effectiveness of our tax dollars and stabilize our fiscal future.
It takes time to reverse several decades of ill-advised spending policies. Here is a link providing details of all the bills we passed in the special session: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/ss2011.