I hope everyone survived the latest round of snow. It is messy now, but the moisture is very welcome in our area.
A couple of congratulations: First of all, the Pierz Wrestlers competed at state last week and once again continued the Pioneer pride. The Little Falls Boys hockey team fell to Apollo in the Section finals, but overall what a great season! AND we need to give a big shout out to the Upsala Girls basketball team! After rallying from behind, they beat Pine River-Backus to earn the schools 1st ever trip to state for girls basketball. Awesome, just awesome! I hope they have a great showing at State Basketball and whoever leaves Upsala last--don't forget to turn the lights off!
It was another busy week in Saint Paul. Here are some updates from the Capitol:
I submitted the following column to our local newspapers regarding the good news we received last month about the revenue forecast that I wanted to share with you:
Budget improvements give us a roadmap to prosperity
Minnesota’s economy is on the mend. Our unemployment rate is 5.5%, far below the national average. In 2012, Minnesota created over 50,000 new jobs, and saw 60,000 new business filings. Our state’s budget situation has also improved dramatically over the past two years.
The results speak for themselves; just two years ago in 2011, the budget deficit for the 2012-2013 biennium was $5 billion dollars. The surplus for 2012-2013 now stands at $2.8 billion dollars. Thanks to fiscal restraint and limiting the growth of government to a reasonable rate of 1%, the state was able to pay back the entirety of the school shift passed in 2011, refill state budget reserves, and foster dramatic revenue growth without raising taxes.
What was once a $4.4 billion dollar deficit for the 2014-2015 biennium is now a fraction of that – $627 million. Perhaps most encouraging is that the state is projected to have a surplus of well over $700 million dollars for the 2016-2017 biennium.
The successes our economy has enjoyed over the past two years were not the doing of the Governor, the legislature, or any other politician, Democrat or Republican. Minnesota was able to generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue by putting people back to work, and growing the private sector.
It’s no coincidence that tax revenues have gone up as unemployment has fallen. With each new job created, Minnesota gains another taxpayer who pays income tax, and thus will have income to buy goods that generate sales tax revenue, among others.
We should be pursuing policies that will help continue to build upon the prosperity we’ve enjoyed over the past two years. We should be taking steps to improve the competitiveness of our state’s job climate, and attract businesses and jobs to Minnesota, rather than driving them away.
When we grow jobs in Minnesota, we improve our state’s economy, put more people back to work, and strengthen the middle class. Growing our economy will continue to generate additional tax revenue we can use to make investments in education and other areas.
The welcomed improvements we’ve seen provide us a useful roadmap on how to continue to improve our state’s economy and create a better Minnesota for all of us. We have a roadmap that works – now it’s up to the Governor and the legislature whether they decide to follow it.
Also this week Governor Dayton dropped his support for the service industry tax. With the good news on the forecast and his willingness to listen to the businesses leaders and GOP's opposition, I am very hopeful MN will continue on a path of recovery. Hat's off to Gov. Dayton for working with the public on this one.
Health Insurance Exchange
This week, the House debated and passed a major piece of legislation that will have far reaching impacts for Minnesotans. The Health Insurance Exchange would establish a state-run website that will sell insurance plans to an estimated 1.2 million Minnesotans.
Unfortunately, there are serious issues that have yet to be addressed in the bill. Questions remain about what private medical data would required to purchase insurance through the exchange, and what other state or federal agencies. Moreover, the exchange is not the competitive marketplace that it should be; the seven-member board that operates the exchange has the ability to decide which plans can and can't be sold, limiting the healthcare choices for the millions of Minnesotans that will be using the exchange to purchase their health insurance.
I'm hopeful that the bill will be improved now that it has moved to conference committee before the House votes on it for final passage. If you have thoughts or concerns about the Health Insurance Exchange, I would like to hear them, and I encourage you to also share them with the DFL Majority Leadership and the Governor.
Visits this Week
I want to thank the many constituents and groups that came to visit this week at the Capitol. They included:
Constituents visiting on behalf of Education MN from Little Falls, Long Prairie, and Upsala.
MN Association of Builders
Todd-Wadena Electric Co-Op.
MN Citizens for the Arts
I also had the chance to attend the East Central Energy Meet & Greet.
Lastly, don't forget good government is a participatory game. I am sending out surveys soon and would love your feedback. You can take the survey online if you don't receive a copy in the mail by clicking here
. Please let me know your thoughts.
Have a great week,
State Representative, District 09B