Greetings Neighbors and Friends,
I would like to provide an update to you on the 89th Legislative Session and the budget work for the next biennium.
CAMP RIPLEY BEARS
Last week, I traveled with four other legislators to take part in an annual scientific assessment of hibernating bears whom are residents of Camp Ripley, a 53,000-acre military reservation located in central Minnesota. We anaesthetized mama bear and removed her and her cubs from the den in order to collect data. Interestingly, bears to not experience atrophic loss of muscle tissue or mass while in hibernation, but they do consume stores of body fat. We performed a minor surgical procedure on the mother inserting a transmitter which reports temperature and heart rate to a receiving unit located at Medtronic, Inc. in Fridley. In addition we did an ultra-sound on the bear’s heart and ran EKG strips just like we do on humans. As a long-ago Coronary Care Nurse, I can report to you that mother bear appeared to have a normal sinus rhythm with an elongated S-T segment on her EKG, which means she is doing fine. Both mother and cubs were placed back into the den after expeditious measurements were recorded.
THE BUDGET: EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT
Next week, the budget targets for the many areas of government spending will be announced by House leadership. The sum of all of these targets will become the centerpiece of discussions for the remaining two months of this session. The remaining debate will be about funding legislative priorities.
As previously reported, Minnesota's economy is slowly improving. The most recent February forecast, projects a surplus for the biennium ending June 30, 2015 to be approximately $2 billion. The budget surplus is not the result of fiscal responsibility, but was instead provided by and upon the backs of hard-working Minnesota families and businesses required to place their priorities subordinate to the state.
During the last 10 weeks since the start of this session, the Capitol has been flooded with folks representing special interest areas for the purpose of informing, encouraging and asking the Legislature to support both their causes and priorities through changes in laws, policies and/or funding this session.
Thank you to everyone who has stopped in to visit with me during these past many weeks. It is certainly difficult to not share both concern and empathy for the many worthwhile projects and concerns brought forth by citizens from all around our state. Many discussions are about policy, while most are about dollars. Simply stated, the funding requests far exceed total dollars projected to be available, even including a surplus of $2 billion as reported without raising yet more taxes.
As you can imagine, every person's issue is a priority, but limited resources will force some priorities to be greater than others. It would be my expectation that with a surplus, many will wonder how their priority could not get funded.
THE BUDGET: BY THE NUMBERS
Less than two years ago, the year ending 6-30-13 all-funds budget tallied about $61 billion. During the last legislative session the majority increased taxes and spending by more than 15% to about $70.5 billion of all-funds spending for the biennium soon to end on 6-30-15. The Governor's proposals for the coming biennium are to yet again increase spending and add additional taxes which would propose about $75 billion of all-funds spending, if adopted. This would be an increase in growth and size of state government as measured in dollars of nearly 25% in just FOUR years and spend more than $100 million for each and every day of the next biennium! This trajectory and rate of growth in government spending is unsustainable and cannot be supported by the private sector for an extended period of time.
Wage growth is not keeping up with the rate of state spending and the relationship between the two should cause no wonder. Businesses and employers in Minnesota are 92% comprised of pass-through entities for tax purposes. Accordingly, increases in the state general levy imposed upon business property, minimum-wage increases, fourth-tier income tax, Affordable Care Act, rising insurance costs, and additional regulatory burdens stifle net revenue and resulting profit which is necessary to provide growth in wages.
I will keep you informed as the new budget begins to take shape next week.
Have a Great Weekend!
Rep. Jerry Hertaus