Viewpoint: Governor's budget proposal and February forecast set the tone
By Sen. Karla Bigham, Minnesota Senate District 54
Our most important role in the Legislature is creating a budget to fund priorities and essential programs for Minnesotans. Together with my colleagues in the Senate and the House, we will work together to craft individual budget bills, and then bring them together to pass a final budget.
Whatever budget bill we pass must be signed into law by the governor. Though he cannot introduce bills, he can set an agenda, and earlier this month he introduced his budget proposal. Gov. Tim Walz has laid out an ambitious budget, with historic investments in education, a priority on reducing health care costs while expanding access, and more support for county program aid for our local communities.
I am supportive of many of the elements in the governor's budget. It's very important that we continue to invest in our schools and make sure that every student is getting the high-quality education they deserve. The new money for the basic funding formula is the best way to make sure students have the resources they need to succeed. The governor has also added more funding for school safety, which is a top priority for me as well as I work to pass the school safety assessment team bill SF 177 through committees in the Senate.
The governor is also proposing major investments for Minnesota's transportation system. We face a shortfall in doing the necessary work to have world-class infrastructure, and we must find a way to address this need. He's also proposed robust investment in transit improvements. This focus on transit is critical for our community, and we must continue to make it a piece of our transportation network, including all-day bus service for our area.
Together, this budget represents a clear picture of where Walz wants us to prioritize new funding. This is a bold proposal, and really puts the concerns of working Minnesotans first. However, we must also be responsible stewards of the taxpayer's money. On Feb. 28, we received the updated February forecast from the Office of Management and Budget. They gave us an update on the state's fiscal situation, and while we have a budget surplus of $1.052 billion, the projected surplus has gone down $492 million since November. We have no ongoing surplus funds — only one-time money.
We must keep this in mind as we craft the state's budget. We can still make strong investments in our priorities, but we must also prepare for economic concerns and unforeseen issues that could pose challenges. While an economic downturn is possible, we can take steps that will ensure fiscal stability and continued success. Over the next few weeks and months, I look forward to working with my colleagues to put together a responsible budget that puts Minnesotans first.
I encourage constituents to visit at the Capitol. Call 651-297-8060 to make an appointment or to share your thoughts and concerns. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.