As budget negotiations continue at the Capitol, the major sticking point remains the House Democrats’ and the governor’s proposal to raise taxes by $12 billion.
Minnesota has a $1 billion revenue surplus, based on the February budget forecast. Last week, we received news that April tax revenues actually came in $489 million higher than that forecast. Since that February forecast was released, Minnesota’s actual tax receipts have exceeded that forecast by an additional $573 million.
The Senate has a common-sense budget approach. Their proposal holds state spending to about 5 percent. That increase is paid for without raising taxes. Simply put, there is no need to impose the massive tax increases proposed by the House majority and governor. We have sufficient tax revenues to support the necessary education, public safety, transportation, health & human services and the other necessary things state government must do.
Minnesota’s economy is doing well. We gained 3,600 seasonally adjusted jobs last month, which amounts to annual job gains of more than 14,000 since April of last year. The state’s current unemployment rate is 3.3 percent, the U.S. unemployment rate is currently 3.6 percent.
The question is, do we live within our means or do we slam $12 billion in new taxes on Minnesotans? I remain convinced that my colleagues in the Senate have it right. There is no need to raise taxes in this already tax revenue rich climate.
The pharmacy benefit management reform bill we sent to a conference committee last week came back to us today. The senate passed it 67-0 and on a 130-2 vote we in the House sent it on to the governor’s office for enactment.
This reform was long overdue. We all probably know someone that has had to deal with the frustration of trying to find a suitable prescription medicine substitute, when these companies change what medicines are available through your health insurance plan.
While we have not reached agreement on final budget numbers, we are getting some important work done here in St. Paul. We plan to be here through midnight Monday, when the state Constitution requires we adjourn.
Expect more updates as we whittle away on a budget agreement.