February State Budget Forecast Decreases
The state budget surplus is projected at $1.05 billion. This is $500 million less than the November forecast. Lower state tax revenues and a slowing economy was the economists’ reason for the lower forecast. This will affect state budget proposals and may affect some of Olmsted County’s legislative priorities. The state budget will likely be adjusted so I will continue to monitor it.
Here is what has been done regarding Olmsted County’s legislative priorities:
- Graham Park. A bill has been introduced in the House (HF1333) to provide $12.5 million in bonding for the proposed renovations.
- Pathways to Prosperity and Well-Being. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate (SF1797) to providing funding for Olmsted and Dakota Counties to implement a pilot project. (Pathways is project to help people who are receiving county aid to better launch themselves into financial independence.)
- County Road 104 and Highway 14 safety improvement. Two sets of bills have been submitted (SF314 / HF437 and SF650 / HF594) to provide funding for the much needed overpass and safety improvements.
- Housing. HF1208 and SF1294 have been introduced to create a Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability. A bill creating a state housing tax credit (HF1156 and SF404) was introduced. Governor Walz may recommend $170 million in bonding for affordable housing but he did not include the tax credit in his budget. Something else to watch is if the Legislature will take up a bill to evaluate the current building standards and regulations.
- Improvements in the computer system by Human Services (METS) and license renewal (MnLARS) have been introduced. The main thrust of the bill is to require that all computer software be field tested [and perfected] before requiring state agencies and counties to use it.
- Minnesota Health Care Access Fund. The governor’s budget proposes to repeal the sunset of the Health Care Provider Tax. This would keep the tax in place to continue funding the access to Health Care.
- Clean up of Polluted tax-forfeited properties. No bills have been introduced but discussions have been held to possibly establish a pilot program to provide grants to counties for this purpose. This problem is affecting many counties so it is hoped that progress can be made.
- Alternative Printed Ballot Styles. Bills have been introduced (HF1098 and SF1566) to expand the types of electronic voting systems. If allowed this will reduce the expense of elections while maintaining a safe and secure voting process. (Much of the electronic equipment currently used is obsolete and is no longer serviceable by the equipment manufacturer.)
- Compensation Limits. HF703 has been introduced.
Regional Behavioral Health Crisis Facility
The much need mental health facility proposal was awarded $5 million in state bonding funds. This has been a several year project for Olmsted County. This was accomplished through collaborative work with our State Legislators.
Tobacco and Age 21
Olmsted County Public Health has proposed changing the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (vaping), from age 18 to age 21 in Olmsted County. The Legislature will take up a bill proposing a state-wide law increasing the age to buy tobacco products. Six other states have already increased the age (to 21) to buy tobacco – California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii and Maine.