District 9B looks like a snow globe. The new snow has brought beauty and cold so please be careful out there. This is the season of lutefisk, snowmobiling, ice houses, Christmas crafts, and holiday programs. Whatever your winter activity, have fun and be safe.
This week brought about economic news as the state November forecast was released. A cyclical improvement in Minnesota's economy resulted in a $1.08 billion surplus for the remainder of the two-year budget cycle. Without question, this is continued good news for Minnesota. But what does the surplus really mean for Minnesota? A couple of thoughts:
Education: One of the biggest benefits of this surplus is that funding shift to our schools will be restored to full levels. In other words, there will be no more delayed payments to our schools. The shift in the payment schedule to schools can be especially difficult to rural schools who have smaller fund balances than metro schools and smaller reserves.
Many rural schools had to borrow to cover costs and in some cases cutback on staff in lieu of interest payments. This budget surplus now allows us to right the ship.
Now that we have restored the funding levels, it is time to focus on an equitable formula for Greater Minnesota schools. We don't need indoor practice fields, just adequate funding.
Taxes: The repeal of the warehouse tax, telecommunications tax, and farm equipment (and other machinery) repair tax should be easy conversations. Enough said.
Long term care facilities and assisted living: Our rural Minnesota facilities continue to need financial assistance in this area. Not only are these facilities large employers in Greater Minnesota, they are taking care of our elderly.
Increased regulations and Federal demands have increased the cost of care for our elderly--it's time to have a serious conversation and action in this area.
Government growth and efficiency: With a favorable economic forecast, our back is no longer against the wall. We need to take a hard look at areas of redundancy in the State budget and make downward adjustments to prepare for uncertain future economic times. Many Minnesota agencies saw double-digit percent budget increases last session. This kind of growth could result in future deficits if we continue to increase spending year after year on state government.
Lastly, we have an opportunity to set the MN budget up for the next five years--not just for the next election cycle. As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns. I have been fielding a number of questions lately about MNSure and the challenges many families are having with the website and signing up--if you are having trouble getting help please let me know.