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State Budget and Economic Forecast Offers Optimism

Minnesota's state budget will remain in balance through June 30, 2021, with an anticipated surplus of $641 million dollars. Despite projections for the FY 2022-2023 showing a deficit of $1.273 billion dollars, Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders offered optimism as they responded to the latest economic news. Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner James Schowalter, State Economist Dr. Laura Kalambokidis and State Budget Director Britta Reitan released their much-anticipated report Tuesday, December 1, via a remote video teleconference.

"Minnesota has managed our state budget well," said Schowalter. "We've made smart decisions preparing for an economic downturn and ensuring that our tax policies are able to withstand the unexpected. Our 'rainy day fund' is still at the highest level in our state's history, and if our forecast holds, we'll still be able to use it as a buffer for a projected shortfall in the next biennium or to provide more services to Minnesotans affected by both health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19."

Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders addressed the media following the budget update, citing the work of Minnesota businesses and workers in adjusting to the pandemic. "The reason this is good [news] is because of the resiliency of Minnesotans," Walz said.

In looking forward, legislative leaders stressed the need to rebuild an economy devastated by the pandemic. "We know that the economic effects of the pandemic are not being felt equally, that lower wage workers, those that can afford it least, are bearing it the most," said Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt also said he remained optimistic. "Let's do the things necessary to make Minnesota the most business friendly place so that we can actually grow our way out of this," he said.

To view the entire press conference, select the video archive link.

Bringing Educational and Public Affairs Experience

Among the ten newly elected members to the Minnesota Senate, former House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and Communications Professor Aric Putnam will draw upon their experiences in political and collegial discourse. Murphy talks with Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke about future legislative challenges, including prioritizing equity in healthcare, education, economic development, and the environment. Putnam underscores the correlation between his future legislative role and his expertise in public arguments about race, colonialism and political culture.

Also in the program, the Senate makes history in the election of a new Senate President, plus the significance and uniqueness of the portraits hanging in the State Capitol.

Preventing Catalytic Converter Theft, Introducing New Senators

Cars that runs on gasoline have a special device, called a catalytic converter, that helps minimize the release of harmful exhaust chemicals into the air. Made with precious metals, the catalytic converters are a hot commodity and of great interest to thieves. Senator John Marty, DFL-Roseville, joins Shannon to explain his efforts to curb the thefts.

The Minnesota Senate will have ten new Senators when they convene in 2021, including current House Assistant Majority Leader Mary Kunesh-Podein, DFL-New Brighton, and Lakeville School Board Member Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville. Shannon talks with the Senators-elect about their experiences and goals for the coming session.

Governor's Continued Emergency Powers Criticized

The Minnesota Legislature convened its sixth special session of 2020, as Governor Tim Walz extended his emergency powers for another thirty days to address the pandemic. In the previous five special sessions, the Senate voted to terminate his powers; however, the House of Representatives supported his continued use. While the Senate did not debate the issue Thursday, November 12, Senator Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, expressed his concern over the lack of legislative input in managing the COVID-19 epidemic.

Senator David Tomassoni Elected as Senate President

Senator David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, was elevated to serve as President of the Minnesota Senate by a bipartisan vote of the Senate Thursday, November 12. The action was initiated by Senate Republicans in an effort to avoid the loss of Senator Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, to a vacancy in the Office of Lieutenant Governor should Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan be appointed to another office.

The action, according to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, was a preemptive move to ensure that Republicans maintain a majority in the coming 2021 legislative session. Senate Republicans are expected to hold a 34-33 vote majority in 2021.