By Rep. Joe McDonald
The new state budget forecast gives us almost 900 million reasons to continue advancing the fiscally responsible approach our new legislative majority brought to St. Paul last January.
After four straight years of budget shortfalls, we received the wonderful news this week that Minnesota has a projected $876 million SURPLUS for the 2012-13 biennium. This budget turnaround is quite impressive when you consider we inherited a $5 billion shortfall this year and our new budget has only been in place since July. The new budget we enacted is outperforming even the most optimistic projections.
This surplus is not because of any new taxes – we didn’t pass any. Instead, our surplus is the result of setting priorities, containing costs and enacting reform measures to help our state operate more efficiently.
The latest Minnesota Management & Budget forecast which projects our surplus shows our state is ahead of the nation in getting our economy going again and recovering from the recession. It also points out there are state statutes which dictate how our surplus must be used in certain conditions. In this case, the money must go toward replenishing reserve accounts which were depleted to make ends meet during previous shortfalls.
We should all hope the next budget forecast in February shows more black ink so we can look at other things like accelerating the payback of shifted K-12 funds. I was disappointed delayed K-12 payments were part of this year's budget compromise and I cannot emphasize enough how satisfying it would be if we are able to settle up ahead of schedule.
There were some extremely tough budget decisions to make this year, but now we are beginning to reap the rewards. The key was in bringing kitchen-table economics to the state level, establishing priorities and not spending more than what the state has in the checkbook.
Plenty of work remains and we have been busy shaping up a series of bills to bring us even more cost-saving measures to make better use of our hard-earned tax dollars. Many systemic changes are necessary to providing our state with a steadier future and the news our first round of changes are working should give us extra incentive to remain committed. I am eager to hit the ground running in the 2012 session and continue to welcome input on this subject and others.