Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
The Legislature convened on Tuesday, Jan. 24, for another challenging session, focusing on job growth and strengthening Minnesota's economy, looking to government reforms, and capital investment projects.
A variety of legislative information, including bill introductions, is available on the Legislature's website: www.leg. senate.mn.us. As always, I welcome you to contact me if I can be of assistance to you, with legislation or otherwise. If you wish to arrange a meeting with me at any point during the Session, you may do so by contacting my office.
Your questions and concerns are important to me, and I look forward to hearing from you and continuing to provide information regarding the upcoming session.
Jobs and government reform
In the upcoming Legislative Session, it will be imperative to continue focusing on creating jobs, bringing about fiscal responsibility, and strengthening our state economy. Leaders across the nation and state continue to look for ways to promote job growth and to revitalize our economy. Streaming regulations will create a positive economic climate where job creators feel confident about investing in Minnesota and expanding their current operations.
The Legislature will explore reducing duplicity and excessive mandates, while also respecting the environment, conserving energy, and maintaining the highest workplace safety standards. The upcoming legislative session provides us with an opportunity to consider creating a Small Business Regulatory Review Board consisting of representatives from the business community, state agencies, and legislators that will review new and existing rules that many significantly impact small businesses and their growth, and reducing the overall cost of doing business in our state because the business income tax is ultimately passed on to other taxpayers, primarily consumers who purchase the goods and services they produce.
Although the Minnesota Vikings' 2011-2012 season and Super Bowl dreams have come to an end, the issue of a new stadium remains. At the end of 2011, two joint informational hearings of the Senate Tax and Local Government and Elections Committees, and the Senate Tax and State Government Innovations and Veterans Committees were held to explore the Minnesota Vikings Stadium issue. Members of the public and representatives from the Minnesota Vikings, as well as representatives from possible county and city sites provided a variety of information.
Most recently, nine proposals were submitted to Governor Dayton Thursday, Jan. 12. The proposals ranged from often-talked about locations, such as Arden Hills and Downtown Minneapolis, but several last minute proposals have generated varying levels of interest, including a location in Shakopee, Bloomington, a stadium in the shape of a huge iPad, and one that would be built for $100,000 and includes a retractable roof reminiscent of a truck-topper. Although the proposals included a variety of funding mechanisms the discussion will continue.
There have been discussions to utilize gambling funds, revenue from memorabilia sales, and local government partnerships. Since a proposal has not been selected it is still unclear what combination of these or other ideas will be included in the final proposal.
The even-numbered year of the state's biennium is typically a "bonding year," which allows the state to repair and invest in new infrastructure projects that are of state-wide or regional significance. Typically, 2012 would be the year when a new bonding proposal would be brought forward for consideration. Last year, as a part of the final budget agreement, $500 million in new projects were approved.
Governor Dayton recently released his proposal for another round of capital investment projects totaling $775 million. Included in this recommendation are dollars for higher education institutions, transportation projects, civic centers in regional cities such as Rochester, St. Cloud, and Mankato, as well as money for a new St. Paul Saints stadium. More information regarding the projects in Governor Dayton's proposal can be found at www.mmb.state.mn.us.
Last year I was honored to serve as the chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and to do so again this session. Minnesota is fortunate to have a strong higher education system consisting of public and private institutions that help drive the state's workforce and economy.
The upcoming legislative session provides us an opportunity to push through reforms that will make our state's higher education systems even stronger. Throughout the fall, I had the chance to visit many of our campuses and talk with those on the ground about what is most needed.
We must ensure that our institutions are as responsive as possible to the needs of the state and regional economies they serve. To do this, we must look for ways to align the education and training offered to our students with the needs of the businesses they serve. Much progress has been made in this area, but it's crucial that this work continue and be improved where possible.
I was recently honored to receive an award as the "Senator of the Year" from the Minnesota State College Student Association. This group advocates on behalf of students at community and technical colleges within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. This was a tremendous award for me to receive because it came from students and they will all play an important role in the future of our state.
State Budget Forecast
In early December, Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) officials released the state's most recent complete budget forecast. This projection of the state's short- and long-term budget outlook showed a surplus of $876 million. This good economic news follows years of budget deficits, including the $5 billion shortfall that was dealt with last session.
State law dictates how these dollars are to be used. Currently, $255 million of the forecasted surplus is placed into the state's cash flow account and the remaining $621 million is directed to replenish the budget reserve. Had the surplus been larger, any remaining dollars would have been used to buy back the K-12 school shift that has been enacted over the past number of years.
The surplus is the result of a number of factors including lower than expected spending in FY 2011, 2012, and 2013. Also included are higher than expected revenues from the close of FY2011.
While the immediate budget news is positive, there is still a note of caution ahead for the state's fiscal outlook. Looking ahead to the FY2014-2015 biennium, MMB projects a deficit of approximately $1.3 billion.
Another budget forecast is set to be released in early March which will reflect the state's budget picture through February 2012, and will act as an up-to-date guide for any budget decisions.
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