It’s a budget year at the Capitol and this week we received a new economic forecast for Minnesota. It shows a $17.5 billion surplus.
This will serve as the official framework for establishing a new two-year budget plan before the Legislature is set to adjourn in late May. The bottom-line surplus figure of $17.5 billion is in line with the last full forecast, issued in early December, with one twist: Revenue actually exceeded the November projection by nearly $1.5 billion, but the most recent forecast factored for inflation for the first time in decades and effectively canceled the revenue overage.
While it goes without saying a surplus is better than a shortfall, this forecast shows our state is still taxing people way too much. It is not right that our state is sitting on historic amounts of over-collected tax dollars at a time Minnesotans are struggling with dramatic price increases on pretty much everything.
I also am concerned about legislation the majority is passing this year and the detrimental impacts businesses in our state face in the future so anything we can do now to offset those consequences would be helpful.
Major tax relief – starting with completely ending the state tax on Social Security – should be a given this session. Just hours after receiving the updated economic forecast, House Republicans looked to fast-track legislation fully eliminating the state tax on Social Security, but House Democrats voted down that move.
In addition, House and Senate Republicans this week unveiled a “Give It Back” plan, which provides $13 billion over two years in permanent tax cuts and one-time rebates. The package features tax relief benefiting Minnesotans both now and in the long-term, such as:
- Lower first and second tier rates
- Full elimination of Social Security tax
- $1,800 tax credit per child
- Property tax relief
- $5 billion in rebates
These permanent tax cuts and one-time rebates not only are sustainable and worthy of bipartisan support, they also are the right things to do for Minnesotans.
On a separate note, House and Senate Republicans announced a “Reading RESET” plan this week to address our state’s reading crisis. Half of Minnesota’s students are unable to read proficiently at grade level, with no real science-based reading plan in sight to address this urgent problem head on – until now.
Our plan would establish a special revenue fund, not unlike a disaster relief fund, from which schools can apply to cover costs related to aligning their curriculum and instructional practices to the science of Reading.
Reading RESET has three primary components: funding for schools that would like to replace the ineffective literacy materials they are currently using and purchase proven Science of Reading curriculum and instructional materials and books; funding for teacher training and professional development in the Science of Reading, and funding for tutoring to help struggling students who have fallen behind in reading.
Our state’s poor reading scores indicate we are failing our children in this regard. We can do better to help them achieve success and this package would be a positive step in that direction.