Friday, July 28, 2017

News

Dear Neighbor,

The first week of the 2014 legislative session is in the books.

It has been good returning to the Capitol to address important issues. This is scheduled to be a relatively shorts session in a non-budget year, but we still face a number of key decisions.

Here is a snapshot of this week’s headlines:

 

UPDATED BUDGET FORECAST

We received a new state economic forecast today. It shows a $1.23 billion budget surplus for the current biennium. This continues a trend of positive reports as Minnesota’s economy has not faced a deficit projection since February of 2011. That was the year we had to erase a $5 billion shortfall. We accomplished that, enacted fiscally responsible improvements and have enjoyed a positive bottom line ever since.

Here is a quick overview from Minnesota Management & Budget regarding the new forecast:

"The February budget and economic forecast shows a positive balance of $1.233 billion for fiscal years 2014-2015. This is an improvement of $408 million from the November budget forecast. Since November, revenue projects have increased by $366 million and spending projections have decreased by $48 million. Other adjustments account for the difference. The 2016-17 structural balance is projected to be $2.599 billion for 2016-2017."

The billion-dollar question now is how we respond to this surplus. Some people will want to spend it, others will want to save it and still others will want to give it back to taxpayers. I favor the latter, especially since our taxes went up by more than $2 billion under the new majority's actions last year. I will provide more information about this once formal proposals start to emerge.

MINNESOTANS VOICE STRUGGLES WITH MNSURE

Minnesota’s new state-run health insurance program has experienced a rocky first five months since implementation. This week, families who have experienced difficulty with MNsure called on Gov. Mark Dayton and President Barack Obama in a press conference to relieve Minnesotans from the burdensome penalties for failure to comply with ObamaCare mandates. One citizen spoke about her family’s struggle to obtain insurance for their family and avoid a fine from the IRS. Another person talked about his family’s health insurance premiums going up dramatically due to ObamaCare and MNsure.

Significant problems remain with MNsure and the state auditor currently is conducting an investigation to determine their true scope. We owe it to Minnesotans to make improvements in this area.

ADDRESSING THE PROPANE GAS SUPPLY SHORTAGE

On Tuesday, the Minnesota House voted pass a $20 million appropriation for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In response to an unusually cold winter made worse by a propane shortage that caused a dramatic increase in heating costs, Dayton expanded LIHEAP to include an additional 120,000 households, and increased the maximum crisis payment per applicant from $500 to $1000. Due to these changes, and an overall increase in demand, the program was expected to run out of funding March 1. The House overwhelmingly voted in support of this funding to provide peace of mind to Minnesotans who rely on the LIHEAP program during this tough winter season.

As always, I welcome input from constituents on these and other issues. The best way to reach me during the session is via email. Stay warm and I’ll be back in touch soon.

Have a good weekend,

Tara

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