We had a good week in St. Paul, with the February forecast news being the highlight. Tuesday, a Joint Senate and House Higher Education committee met to pass on recommendations for the Board of Regents. Wednesday, Representative John Benson and I hosted a townhall in Minnetonka. Thanks to all who came and shared their thoughts.
Thursday, Minnesota Management and Budget released their annual February Forecast. This thorough calculation of Minnesota’s economic activity revealed a projected budget deficit of $627 million dollars, down from $1.1 billion that had been projected just this past November.
This is news to be celebrated; business has improved in Minnesota, and unlike your local weatherman, this forecast is likely to be accurate. Nearly $290 million will go towards paying back our schools leaving only $250 million remaining of the aid shift. With this payment, we are back to an 85/15 payment schedule, very close to the required 90/10.
This good news leaves the question, “now what?” The Governor will have the opportunity to propose a supplemental budget. We’ll hear how he addresses this information and what changes he will propose to his earlier budget. This positive news allows us to take a fresh look at our approach to this year’s budget. We do not need to have a strategy to plug a hole; rather, we can lay the groundwork for future growth and economic stability. We can use this as an opportunity to enact significant tax reform that will facilitate economic vitality in Minnesota for years to come. In this week’s Capitol Update survey (see bottom), I ask your opinion on a possible approach.
Board of Regents Selection
As is custom, Tuesday night a joint hearing of the Senate and House Higher Education committees was held to give recommendations for the Board of Regents candidates. My counterpart in the House, Representative Gene Pelowski Jr., and I co-chaired this hearing, which turned out to be a greater challenge than anticipated.
This was evident from the outset. The first group of candidates that came before the joint committee was vying for the spot representing the 5th CongressionalDistrict. It is customary for the joint committee to accept the recommendation of the 5th district members, who had met the previous week and selected Peggy Lucas; there was not consensus regarding this choice. For much of the time there was a tie between Dennis Nguyen and Peggy Lucas. There was debate among the committee members; in fact, it took five rounds of roll call votes before we finally put forth Ms. Lucas. In addition to Peggy Lucas, the joint committee recommended Abdul Omari for the student Regent position, as well as Dean Johnson and Linda Cohen for the two at-large positions, all extremely qualified candidates as were all the candidates put forward by the Regents Council Advisory Committee.
The next step in this winding process is for the full House and Senate bodies to meet and officially select the candidates who will join the Board of Regents, the governing board for the University of Minnesota. This meeting will be held next Wednesday, March 6th. I will let you know how it turns out in next week’s Capitol Update. If it goes anything like our joint hearing, expect some surprises.
Wednesday night concluded the first round of Town Hall meetings that I participated in for 2013. I was joined by Representative John Benson as we provided updates from St. Paul and addressed commentsand concerns from the near 50 attendees. Thank you to all who came.
The conversation ranged from gun control to invasive species, and while there may have been differences of opinion (sometimes extreme opposite viewpoints), I appreciate the respectful tone that prevailed. Even though we didn’t agree on everything, I noticed many common themes from both town hall gatherings. Chief among these themes was the opposition to Governor Dayton’s proposed business-to-business tax. I heard from many business owners and service industry professionals who are concerned that this will have a negative effect on our business community and deter economic activity statewide. I hear your concerns and stand with you.
This week legislation was introduced to allow same sex couples to marry. This legislation includes language that clarifies the proposed change is permissive not restrictive, i.e. does not require clergy to marry same sex couples. While I am focused on issues related to job growth, education and the economy as well as operational effectiveness, I was honored to be asked to co-author this bill. I accepted this request on behalf of those who believe the time has come for the privilege of marriage to be shared by all (a belief I hold).
I understand that while many in my community share this view, there are also many who do not. Please understand, I respect our differing views and welcome the dialogue.
This coming week several bills I have authored will be heard for consideration. I will review those in next week’s update. I am particularly interested in the angel investment tax credit bill as this has proven to be a strong tool for economic growth. Click here to participate in this week’s survey regarding tax reform. Stay tuned to my Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the week.