We've hit the ground running in these first two weeks of session. Its been highlighted by hearing dozens of bills in committees, the February budget forecast was released (more on that below), and we've continued to find out more about the MNLARS mess and began to come up with our own solutions on how to clean up the Dayton Administration's mess.
After the busy week of session, I hit the road south with two of my kids this past weekend to New Orleans to see my youngest daughter graduate from school with her bachelor degree in criminal justice. I couldn't be more proud!
Forecast: Surplus for Minnesota
The February forecast was released on Wednesday, February 28th, and showed a projected $329 million forecast. It’s great to see the common sense budget and tax reform passed by the Republican Legislature in 2017 spurring on Minnesota’s economy. We have set the table for Minnesotans to keep more of their paychecks and for the state to be in a good budgetary position going into the future.
The $329 million surplus is an over half-billion dollar improvement from the November forecast that predicted a $188 million deficit.
It was another turbulent week for MNLARS, the new computer system developed by the Department of Public Safety and MN.IT to perform DMV services. Governor Dayton submitted an emergency funding request for $10 million immediately, threatening layoff notice for employees if the legislature did not fund his request. This proposal was brought up for debate in the House Chamber on Thursday afternoon. But it was after the Senate had adjourned until Monday, so there was nothing we could do until Monday anyway since both bodies would have needed to act favorably on the bill for it to proceed to the Governor.
Chair of the House Transportation Finance Committee, Paul Torkelson, has introduced HF 3147 which provides the $10 million from the same DVS account but would require the Governor to back-fill $10 million from within his executive agency budgets by June 30, 2019. Governor Dayton has said he accepts responsibility for the MNLARS mess, and this approach will give him the opportunity to back up those words with actions.
The bottom line is Minnesota taxpayers have paid nearly $100 million for a system that is only half built. Before we dedicate one more penny, we need to see real documentation that this funding is needed and that those responsible for this mess are held accountable. It simply would not be wise to allocate $10 million without comprehensive documentation and a plan on how MN.IT plans to spend this funding and provide a product that works. Minnesotans deserve a DMV system that works, but we will not give a blank check to the Governor.
Have a great week and God bless!