Words from Wiger: Caution is watchword for Minnesota’s fiscal future

MN State Senator Chuck Wiger, District 43

Minnesota’s economy is growing, but not as fast as predicted.

A complex picture of slow wage growth, large tax cuts, over-size spending decisions and uncertainty at the federal level has put the brakes on the economic growth of this state. The result is a projected budget deficit for the first time in four years.

After eight consecutive surpluses, Minnesota now faces a budget deficit of $188 million for the current two year-period, according to the November forecast released the week of Dec. 4 by the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget. Even more cautionary is a projected deficit of $586 million for the 2020-21 biennium.

These preliminary figures are a reality check. They call for caution as we put together the state’s budget. We will get another forecast update in February when more is known about Christmas holiday sales receipts and federal actions. Unlike the U.S. Congress, we must balance the Minnesota budget, as required by law.

The Legislature entered last session with a $1.2 billion surplus. Unfortunately, spending decisions were made that are not sustainable. We over-committed. The short view rather than the long view prevailed. Governor Dayton’s request for additional funding for special education was not fulfilled, and when those enrollments went up, that added to the deficit.

Action at the federal level also can have a large impact on Minnesota’s budget. This includes:

• Expected federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program of $178 million. This program has currently expired and is awaiting reauthorization. If this comes through, it would shrink our projected deficit to $10 million.

• New federal policies on trade and immigration could impact the state.

• Elimination of the state and local tax deductions could impact the bottom line for Minnesotans as well.

For specifics on the budget, visit www.mn.gov/mmb/forecast/forecast/

The November forecast is the starting point for a robust discussion to build a balanced budget that will make Minnesota a better place to live, work and raise a family. Thanks to wise decisions made in the past, we do have a budget reserve of $1.6 billion. This is a “rainy day fund” that should not be used as a slush fund. It is important to maintain this reserve to sustain our AAA bond rating.

I look forward to having productive conversations with my colleagues and, most importantly, with the people of Minnesota. I want to work in a bi-partisan way to pass responsible legislation to put our state back on track. The next session begins Feb. 20.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you would like me to stop by your home or apartment. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820.


– Minnesota State Senator Chuck Wiger (District 43) can be reached by e-mail sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn or phone 651-296-6820.
To keep track of what the legislature is doing, go to www.senate.mn, where you can sign up to follow committees of interest or receive other notifications.

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