First off, let’s salute our young students with agricultural interests as National Future Farmers of America Week is celebrated Feb. 20-27. The ag industry is vitally important to the health of our state and nation, and it plays a prominent role in our economy as well. FFA does such a great job nurturing the next generations of workers in this field. Students and FFA leaders deserve big-time credit for their efforts. Thank you!
Here are some other notes regarding recent developments in St. Paul:
Budget outlook keeps improving
Minnesota Management & Budget today issued a new state economic forecast which projects a $1.6 billion surplus for the 2022-23 budget cycle. This is a sharp turnaround from the $1.3 billion shortfall projected in December for the same period.
It is nice to see our budget is in far better shape than what was projected in recent months. Now we know exactly what we’re working with as we look to put a new state budget in place by the end of May. We spent the first part of this session talking about general budgeting concepts and now can shift to discussing specific plans.
Our overall mission should be to help businesses and families that have been impacted during the pandemic recover from financial setbacks they’ve experienced, due to restrictions placed on them or otherwise. Tax increases are unnecessary, would be detrimental to regrowing our economy and should be set aside during negotiations.
MMB said the turnaround is due, in large part, to an improved U.S. economic outlook that is bolstered by large federal actions that have emerged since November and were not incorporated in earlier projections. The projected surplus also is related to a higher revenue forecast, lower state spending, and an increased surplus for the current fiscal year.
Progress has been slow on approving a $35 million public safety emergency fund enacted that would provide law enforcement agencies with additional resources to help avoid a repeat of last summer’s Minneapolis riots. Ideally, this new “SAFE Account” would be in place before the Derek Chauvin trial begins in the coming days.
The House majority has twice tried and failed to get their SAFE Account bill off the floor (HF445). The most recent attempt fell by a 62-72 vote, the first time in years that a priority bill for the majority and/or governor has failed on the House floor. A major source of the holdup is the majority insists on including controversial policy provisions that caused the bill to lose support of Minnesota's top three law enforcement groups, while also blocking Republican attempts to offer a meaningful compromise that could have earned significant bipartisan support.
The Star Tribune has taken note and recently published an editorial from its staff entitled: State House Republicans have the right idea on police security funding. It provides quotes relaying the fact House Republicans agree with the governor’s request to set up this account and that we concur reimbursing other police and sheriffs’ departments for extraordinary mutual aid is appropriate.
Through it all, House Republicans remain committed to ensuring law enforcement has the resources needed to keep Minnesotans safe. The majority must decide whether it wants to pursue a bipartisan approach or continue allowing extreme, fringe views to hold up this bill.
Social studies standards
The state is in the process of overhauling its social studies standards for classroom curriculum, a process which takes place every 10 years. Numerous concerns have arisen over this issue and a number of people have reached out to me asking how they can weigh in on this matter. The state’s next public comment period will take place in May at the soonest. Until then, local school boards may be your best avenue for delivering messages. Again, I hope to be back with more on this subject soon and you also may visit the state’s social studies website for additional info.
The House has spent the early stages of the 2021 session introducing bills to the legislative process. March 12 is the deadline for proposals to make preliminary committee progress and remain viable for passage this session.