We received good news this week when Minnesota’s Office of Management & Budget issued the February economic forecast. They forecast a $329 million state revenue surplus at the end of this biennium, July 1, 2019. That is a $518 million improvement from the November 2017 forecast. The historic tax reforms the state legislature put in place last year and recent federal tax reforms should continue to move our economy forward on a positive note.
It was a busy week in St. Paul. I was pleased to accept an invitation to the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe’s annual legislative reception. It was a wonderful opportunity to informally discuss the many issues that touch our area with Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin of the Mille Lacs Band. For one, the Native American community labors under the same painful burden that the opioid epidemic has placed on all of us in Minnesota. We have much to do in getting this epidemic under control.
Aitkin County Commissioners Marcotte, Westerlund, Niemi, and Pratt, HHS Director Cindy Bennett and County Administrator Jessica Siebert were in St. Paul this week. One of the many critical issues we discussed was improving our ability to deal with mental illness that requires placement at a treatment center. We have a shortage of beds and over time the state has pushed 100 pecent of the cost down to the counties. We need to fix that.
Riverwood Health Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Heggem and board member Steve Wilson visited to discuss actions they are taking at the hospital level to help turn around the serious opioid abuse problem. Rep. Dave Baker is leading the charge with legislation which I support that will put more funding behind the effort to battle this serious problem.
Also this week, I received a huge number of emails and phone calls on the subject of protecting our children and promoting school safety following the recent Florida tragedy. The common thread was please focus on protecting our children and address the severe mental health issues that almost always underlie these tragic acts.
While there are many gun control proposals on the table, attempting to take away all or most of the guns will likely not resolve the problem. We must stay focused on how best to protect our children while at school and how to properly intervene with the human involved long before a mental health issue develops into violent crisis.