It's been a busy week at the Minnesota Legislature. March 14, the first of the 3 deadlines imposed to focus the policymaking process, has passed. By next Wednesday the 19th of March, bills must have been heard in all relevant policy committees in both the House and Senate. To meet the deadline, policy committees have been meeting into the evenings for the past couple of weeks. After the 19th, the scope of what will proceed narrows considerably. Many of the bills I am carrying have made the deadline and many will require more work before they will become law.
This week our committees started holding hearings on the Governor's supplemental budgetary recommendations. On February 28th, the Department of Finance released updated budgetary projections. As a consequence of recession in the first half of 2008 and further weakening of the U.S. economy, experts believe Minnesota will collect less tax revenue than previously anticipated in the coming fiscal year. Consequently, the Department is projecting a $935 million deficit for the current biennium and a growing deficit thereafter.
We are giving thorough and deliberate consideration to each of the Governor's proposals. Paring back spending is always difficult. I am very concerned that the Governor again proposes use of Health Care Access Funds to balance the budget. I am concerned that such a substantial proportion (56%) of the proposed cuts come from health and human services and that higer education funding is a target. I am going to work diligently to ensure cuts are made responsibly and with the least possible harm to the most vulnerable among us. Thanks to the many who have already made contact with me about the proposed budget cuts.
There are some components of the Governor's proposal that give me hope of progress. Funding for K-12 and local government aid are sheltered. Cuts to these budgets would likely result in more pressure on property taxes locally. I'm pleased to see the Governor will join the legislature in pursuing tax fairness and closing the loopholes for foreign operating corporations (FOCs). Additionally, it appears his budget would preserve some of the strides made for veterans over the past few years. We face a difficult challenge and I hope that we can build upon this common ground to restore balance to our state's finances with an eye on our shared future.
Posted on Saturday, March 15, 2008 by Erin Murphy,