We are now five weeks into the 2012 Legislative session and the Republican plan is working.
Minnesota Management and Budget released the February forecast this week, showing an increased budget surplus, a continuation of November’s forecast. In total, the state now has a $1.2 billion surplus, a much brighter outlook than last year’s $6.1 billion deficit. This revenue growth was not a result of new taxes. Rather, it was due to needed reforms contributing to an economic climate more conducive to long-term growth. However, this is only the beginning and there is more to be done.
Our Reform 2.0 agenda will create a business and entrepreneur friendly climate by decreasing regulation, reforming government, and lowering the tax burden. In addition to a positive budget forecast, more reform bills passed the House this week:
HF 1850 or the “gainsharing” bill passed the House. This will increase the financial share of savings state employees are eligible to receive for bringing forward government reform ideas.
HF 545 directs state agencies to do an analysis of the potential impact of loss of federal funds either through the federal government becoming insolvent or slowing of federal funds to the state. Washington’s inability to balance its budget is a reminder that we must always be ready to address the impact loss of federal funds may have on state government.
HF 1560 designates the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) as the final decision maker in contested cases over agency rule-making. Under current law, if a state agency makes a new rule, citizens and businesses have the right to contest if they feel it was unfairly made. Contested cases are heard by an administrative law judge in the OAH but the agency has the power to reverse the OAH decision. HF 1560 creates a more level playing field for businesses and citizens by removing current bias in contested cases.
HF 1812 allows the Commissioner of Administration to enter into or approve a state agency contract for waste removal. Under current law, before a state agency can enter into a contract with an outside vendor for services, they must find that no current state employee is able and available to perform the needed services. In other words, instead of looking to private sector waste management companies, current law mandates that a state employee must handle capitol area trash. This bill is common sense and removes an unnecessary statute.
Education Reform Continues
HF 273 provides parents in low-income school districts with the option of sending their child to a better performing school. Increasing choices for parents is a major part of the education initiatives in Reform 2.0. Last year, the Wall Street Journal named 2011 the “Year of Choice,” recognizing a national trend of significant expansions in school choice programs. Unfortunately, Minnesota is still lagging behind. Keeping low-income students in poor performing schools expands the achievement gap and leaves children behind in poverty. Every parent and child in Minnesota should have access to the best school that meets their needs and HF 273 is a step towards this goal.
In other education reform news, newspapers across the state are endorsing the “Last in, First Out” bill that passed the House and Senate. The Fairmont Sentinel argued “seniority as the sole basis for job retention has long been a thorn in the side. It is an absurdity sparked by unionism that everyone knows has nothing to do with life in the real world. What should count? Productivity.”
The LIFO bill allows school districts to consider more than just seniority when making layoff decisions. We are hopeful Governor Dayton will do what’s best for students and sign it into law.
Floor Sessions: Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Monday: Permit Reform (HF 2095) in Ways and Means