I hope everyone is having an enjoyable holiday season with good cheer and good health. Here’s an update from the State Capitol.
Officials from Minnesota Management and Budget recently announced new budget projections including a $7.7 billion budget surplus for the current biennium. The November Economic Forecast included indicators of a strong economic recovery including increases in income, consumer spending, and corporate profits as well as dropping unemployment toward pre-pandemic levels.
Following an incredibly challenging period, it’s good news that Minnesota is on sound fiscal footing. Much of the credit goes to the dedicated workers, especially those on the front lines of COVID who’ve helped our communities navigate the pandemic, and the small businesses that have struggled during uncertain times. Despite the strong budget numbers, many folks are still having a tough time, and we need to make sure workers, students, and families have the tools they need to share in our recovery. This coming legislative session, we have a good opportunity to work together to deliver resources for our schools, assist small businesses and farmers, create more affordable child care opportunities, and repair aging public infrastructure with a sizable capital investment package.
Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee discussed the forecast and MMB’s summary is available here.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still here and the situation in Minnesota is serious. Cases continue to increase while hospital and ICU admissions are putting enormous pressure on our health care system. Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals are once again being pushed to the max. Those needing emergency care for non-COVID-related illnesses are facing lengthy waits. Our state’s health care providers recently purchased a full-page newspaper ad pleading with Minnesotans to do their part to protect one another.
Please get your COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t done so yet, and a booster shot if you’re eligible. The vaccine is effective in preventing community transmission and greatly limits the chances of serious illness if you do happen to contract the virus.
Supply chain difficulties have received a great deal of attention recently, and challenges in meat processing have impacted everyone from livestock producers all the way down to families who need to put food on the table. One long-term solution is to increase the number of local butchers and processors. This past legislative session, we worked together to make investments in small-scale meat processing, including a mobile meat cutting unit within the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), $220,000 for additional funding for meat and poultry inspections within the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and $1.5 million toward grants to start, modernize or expand meat and poultry processing facilities.
As large meat and poultry production has consolidated over the years into fewer, larger companies, we’ve also seen a gradual reduction in training opportunities for meat cutters. Lawmakers also delivered funding this year to once again launch meat cutter training programs at Central Lakes College in Brainerd and Ridgewater College in Willmar. Not only will these programs ultimately help get more local meat and poultry to market, but they will create pathways to good-paying careers for Minnesotans. The Star Tribune highlighted these investments recently, and last week, the public radio program Marketplace discussed the issue.
I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and share my hope for a special New Year. This is a season many of us look forward to all year long and I hope it will be full of joy and new memories with loved ones. As we prepare for holiday celebrations, it’s important to remember that the pandemic is still here, and none of us wants to see a loved one get sick. So take care to protect one another and celebrate safely.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your viewpoints, feedback, or if I can ever be of assistance. My email address is email@example.com and phone number at the Capitol is 651-296-4308. Feel free to be in touch any time.
Again, Merry Christmas.