Editorial: Budget challenges offer chance for reformI want to thank you, the residents of Rosemount and Apple Valley for the honor of representing you in the State Legislature and for all of the support I've received during this time of transition.
I want to thank you, the residents of Rosemount and Apple Valley for the honor of representing you in the State Legislature and for all of the support I've received during this time of transition. Since one of my highest priorities is to keep you informed about my work at the state capitol, this will be the first of a monthly column in which I'll report on our work during the session.
As I've been learning my way around the capitol, brushing up on parliamentary procedure and waiting for an office assignment, I’ve also been getting a crash course in state government finance. So it was sobering to learn of the size and scope of Minnesota's budget deficit a few weeks ago. According to the Minnesota Department of Finance, we face a shortfall of $426 million in the current budget cycle and a deficit of $4.8 billion for fiscal year 2010-11, meaning Minnesota's revenues will come up $5.2 billion short by June 2011.
The deficit reflects a dramatic decline in our state and national economy. In Minnesota we've already seen 30,000 lost jobs, home foreclosures at near record highs, and a crisis of consumer confidence. Since the end of last session, projected state revenues have decreased by $3 billion, largely due to declining sales, income and corporate taxes. To make matters worse, Minnesota is predicted to lose an additional 77,000 jobs next year, meaning things are likely to get worse before they get better.
While recovery from this economic crisis will be tremendously difficult, I don't believe it's impossible. Bi-partisan cooperation on all sides will be essential. A good early indicator that all sides are willing to do so came last weekend. In a break with tradition, Governor Pawlenty met with the DFL House caucus to talk about ways to cooperatively solve the state's budget deficit. At the same meeting, former Governor Arne Carlson shared his advice with us.
The consensus is that we have a unique opportunity to make government more accountable, responsive and effective by streamlining it to improve the way it works. We can use priority-based budgeting to build the budget from the ground up. We can put additional accountability measures in place to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and effectively. And we can make sure that an unprecedented amount of public input is considered as we make decisions about how to proceed.
Minnesotans are no strangers to difficult economic challenges. In the 1980s more than 100,000 jobs were lost during one of the worst recessions in our nation's history. Following the 9/11 attacks, the nation fell into recession again and Minnesota lost 51,000 jobs. In both cases Minnesotans recovered, and went on to perform better than we had before.
At a similar crossroads today, the choices we make will determine how the next generation of Minnesotans live and work. Lawmakers have just five months to get their hands around a $5 billion deficit and solve it. We have just five months to communicate with the public, to receive input from citizens before we enact substantial changes to deal with that deficit, and to address the serious economic decline and job losses in our state. It's a tough task, but we've faced tough times before and we can do it again, positioning Minnesota to flourish and prosper well into the 21st century.
I'd like to hear from you. If you have any ideas, questions or concerns, please contact me at my interim office phone number at 651-297-9001 or by email at mailto:email@example.com. And if you find yourself at the Capitol after the New Year, please stop by to say hello.