The state recently released the March semi-annual economic forecast. The projected budget surplus has grown by $181 million to $1.5 billion since the last forecast. This most recent economic data will shape the fiscal decisions we make during the remainder of this legislative session.
Our state agencies are fully funded for the current biennium. Nevertheless, a few minor adjustments will be in order. For example, replenishment of the state’s local road wetland replacement program, without which the cost of local road projects goes up significantly or the projects must be deferred until next year. The Rural Finance Association (RFA) loan program and costs associated with a response to the coronavirus, are other examples which I will discuss further.
However, even with modest budget adjustments, I believe the $1.5 billion surplus still presents an excellent opportunity for tax reduction. Especially eliminating 100 percent of the state income tax on social security retirement pensions. Stay tuned for more specific proposals in this area soon.
Gov. Walz, the legislative leadership and Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm held a news conference this week outlining the state's preparations for dealing with the Coronavirus. Hearings were also held in preparation of appropriating additional funds to our state and local public health professionals as needed.
I will repeat the governor’s words, “Preparation is not panic, preparation is the right thing to do.” It is likely the virus will show up in Minnesota, however our public health system is prepared to deal with it. For detailed information on the Coronavirus visit MN Dept. of Health link.
This week, my colleagues across the aisle passed a $2 billion tax hike. The bill would require all employers to collect a new pay roll tax to create a state ran family leave insurance program. The new tax would impose an immediate cut in take home pay on all employees. The program would create a new state agency larger than the current Department of Commerce, which regulates all the private sector insurance companies in Minnesota. I did not support this bill and anticipate it will not move forward in the Senate.
This week we also passed legislation (127 yes, 2 no) replenishing the RFA loan program. The price tag on that is $50 million and an example of supplemental spending that a vast majority of us agree is necessary.
Be safe, enjoy the warm weather this weekend!