Things are looking up from legislative perspective as budget shows surplus

By Rep. Mike LeMieur, Guest Columnist

We are now five weeks into the 2012 Legislative session and so far we have seen drastically positive results from last year’s work.

The Minnesota Management and Budget’s February forecast, which was released recently, showed an increased budget surplus of $323 million. This, in addition to the $876 million surplus from November’s forecast, adds up to a $1.2 million projected increase for the current biennium.

The great legislative initiatives from last session and better than expected economic growth helped to turn a $5.1 billion deficit to a $1.2 billion surplus in one year’s time. This is a remarkable turnaround. Had we followed the governor’s advice and raised taxes by billions of dollars, this positive economic news would have been severely jeopardized.

We are headed in the right direction. Minnesota’s 5.7 percent unemployment rate is well below the 8.5 percent national average. This difference is greater than normal, signaling that our state’s economy is in better shape than most. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is also falling faster than the national average.

Now that we’ve seen the substantial benefits of last year’s efforts, it is clear that responsible government reformation is the common sense solution for Minnesota’s economic woes. This year we have already begun to build on last year’s successes by introducing legislation that will improve the way Minnesota government programs are run.

One example of this was the bipartisan passage of one of our education reform bills, House File 1770. Minnesota law now requires teacher candidates to pass the basic skills exam before being granted an initial teaching license. This legislation helps ensure that we hire effective teachers who will provide a high quality education for our children.

Many great bills are expected to pass through the House this session that will help reduce government regulation and help create jobs by improving our business climate.

One such initiative will build upon last year’s regulation reform bill that was praised by Gov. Dayton during his recent State of the State address. This bill was so important to our reform agenda last year that it was given the prestigious “House File 1” designation.

We are also working on legislation that would provide relief to small businesses by phasing out the statewide business property tax, which is a tax on all commercial/industrial properties. This plan also includes targeted property tax relief to homeowners who experience abnormal increases in their property tax burden.

My bonding request for the Camp Ripley Education Center in Little Falls passed through State Government Finance Committee. Camp Ripley is a regional training facility for our military, federal, state, local and civilian communities. This bill would appropriate $19.5 million from existing bond proceed funds for additions to the Camp Ripley education center.

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Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls, represents Minnesota District 12B and can be reached at [email protected] or (651) 296-4247.