Poppe addresses surplus, infrastructure investments

Published 7:01 am Sunday, March 5, 2017

On Tuesday, Minnesota Management and Budget announced a budget surplus of $1.65 billion. The economic forecast indicates that Minnesota continues to have low unemployment and a stable budget.

Economic growth is expected to remain steady with the budget surplus growing slightly since the last forecast in November. This is evidence of a responsibly run economy with pro-business and pro-employee policies in place. While the data is positive, not all Minnesotans are feeling the effects of the stable economy; this places the onus squarely on the Legislature to make sure we are doing everything possible to capitalize on this momentum.

Whenever there is a surplus, there are claims it is due to over-taxation. However, Minnesota holds one of the nation’s highest ‘tax fairness’ ratings according to a study from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Responsible budgeting and targeted investments have re-energized our economy over the last several years. The momentum must be encouraged, not halted.

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An additional marker of our growth is the number of new jobs added to the economy.  Minnesota added more than 250,000 new jobs since 2011. One challenge facing employers is not being unable to hire, but finding workers with the right skills. This is an example of a problem that can be addressed by responsible investments in the people of Minnesota. Our low unemployment rate, which has been under four percent since June 2014, makes hiring difficult. Many of the people who make up that four percent are either not looking for work or lack the necessary skills to fill the open positions that remain. This makes adequate job retraining and affordable higher education absolutely critical.

Our transportation infrastructure has been neglected for too long, resulting in poor roads and deteriorating bridges. We should be open to using some of the surplus dollars to address these critical needs. However, using one-time dollars does not fix the need for sustainable funding.  There is always talk about transportation investments; the time to act is now because the infrastructure is only getting worse.

With the budget numbers released, committees will be turning their attention to setting budget targets and meeting upcoming committee deadlines.

Any policy bills under consideration must be through the Senate or House by March 10. If it has been passed by either body by the deadline, it must go through the policy committees of the other legislative body by March 17.

Finally, committees must approve action on major budget and finance bills by March 31.

Now that the budget forecast has been released, committees have all the tools they need to roll their sleeves up and get the work done on time.

You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4193, by mail at 291 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via email rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn.