It appears that our run of good weather and warm temps finally wore off as winter has officially arrived in Minnesota. Please be sure to drive safe as roads start to get slick with ice and snow. Here’s a brief recap of the past week.
November Budget Forecast
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Management and Budget office (MMB) released its bi-annual budget forecast. Released twice a year in February and early December, this forecast gives lawmakers a view into the economic wellbeing of the state and is an important factor when considering legislation for the upcoming session.
Tuesday’s forecast revealed that the state is facing a $188 million budget deficit for next year. While this news is not “positive”, there are a number of key data points that show our economy is strong. For example, the report indicated that unemployment in Minnesota is at its lowest point in 17 years, the state’s GDP is strong, and wages continue to grow.
The projected deficit is due in large part to lower-than-expected revenues based on assumptions about federal legislation and U.S. GDP and wage growth. The forecast also reflected $178 million in state spending on the federal Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), nearly all of which would be backfilled once CHIP is renewed at the federal level—which would nearly zero out the entire projected deficit.
Furthermore, the projection assumes that no tax bill will be passed at the federal level despite both the U.S. Senate and House passing historic tax reform with in the past week. It also assumes 2.2% GDP growth in 2017 despite 3.1% growth in the second quarter and 3.3% growth in the third quarter.
I am optimistic that the revised budget projection in February will be positive once we have more clarity from the federal government. Stay tuned.
Meeting with Local School Superintendents
Also taking place this week was a meeting between myself, Rep. Bud Nornes, and superintendents from the Freshwater Education District 6004. As a strong supporter of our public school system, I always welcome the opportunity to meet with local leaders to discuss ways we can ensure that every young person in Minnesota has the chance to receive a world-class education.
I am proud of the investment and reforms we made to our education system this past session which included:
- Ending the default "Last In, First Out" layoff policy to ensure schools can keep the best teachers in the classroom.
- Expanding pre-K scholarships.
- Overhauling the broken teacher licensure system in order to help schools address teacher shortages.
Improving Safety on our Roads
Late last week, a 17 year old boy in rural Todd County was killed when his horse and buggy was struck by a motorist. The victim was driving the horse and buggy west on Highway 210 between Hewitt and Staples when a semi-truck, also heading westbound, rear-ended the horse and buggy.
In response to this tragic accident, I am exploring ways to improve safety on our roads. Proposals that I am considering include widening roads in rural Todd County and requiring additional requirements to ensure buggies are more identifiable to motorists.
Please make sure to pay plenty of attention to your surroundings while driving and be careful out there.
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