February Budget Forecast
Last week, the Minnesota Management and Budget Office (MMB) gave an update on Minnesota’s budget outlook in a report referred to as the February Forecast. Here’s how the budget numbers breakdown:
For the current biennium, there is a $477.6 million projected balance.
The projected surplus for Fiscal Years 2016-17 is $1.392 billion.
Combined with what is left from Fiscal Years 2014-15, there is $1.869 billion available in the upcoming biennium.
According to MMB’s report, a portion of the surplus can be attributed to lower gas prices which allows consumers to deliver spending toward non-gasoline purchases.
While it is good to see Minnesota’s economy improve, we need to remember that it is hard working Minnesota taxpayers who created this surplus, not government. Furthermore, such a large surplus lends credibility to the argument that the $2.1 billion dollar tax increases levied by Governor Dayton and Democrats in 2013 were indeed much too large.
With the surplus, some were surprised when Governor Dayton reiterated, late last week, his plan to impose a new sales tax on gas at the wholesale level to pay for his transportation plan.
I am hopeful that we will be able to prioritize this surplus on finding ways to give Minnesotans much needed tax relief and investments in things they care most about like roads, bridges, and nursing home care.
On Thursday, the House debated and passed House File 2. This bill is about improving our education system, with the goal of ensuring that every child receives a world class education. Next to parental involvement, effective teaching has the greatest impact on student learning, and House File 2 will give school districts the flexibility they need to attract and retain quality teachers in each and every classroom. HF 2 makes a number of important policy improvements, including:
Increases quality of teaching by focusing on teacher development, merit in teacher retention policies, and limiting placement of students with ineffective teaching. This empowers school districts and local unions to negotiate solutions for teacher retention and ensures effective teachers can remain in the classroom.
Strengthens standards on new teacher licensure to ensure a firm foundation of academic skills.
Increases access to quality teachers through out-of-state teacher license recognition, encouraging regional licensure reciprocity, streamlining alternative pathways to teaching, and reinstating other licensure options.
Strengthens the empowerment of school districts to tap community experts to fill unmet needs to maintain or expand academic opportunities for students.
House File 2 will help our schools make student-focused decisions and offer more flexibility to locally elected officials to ensure that we’re offering all students a quality, well-rounded education.
Bill Receives Committee Hearing
The agriculture committee heard my bill, HF257, which pushes the few cities that do not already have rural service districts to establish them. This facilitates the common process for cities, containing agricultural property, to treat Ag land appropriately.
Thank you to the constituents and groups that took the time to visit me in St. Paul this week. It was great to meet with all of you, learn about you, and discuss your thoughts on issues.
Leslie McClellon, President of Rochester Community and Technical College
Tom Freeman and Nancy Hylden from the Housing Choice Coalition regarding HF 1012
Representatives from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life
Eugenia McGrath, Conscientious Minnesota
Joe Wheeler, Housing Authority
Chief Justice Laurie Gildea, Minnesota Supreme Court
Cheri Johnson, Goodhue County Special Education Director
Tenzin Dolkar, Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans
Keeping in Touch
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever have questions, concerns, or comments on any number of issues related to the legislature. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-9236 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.