Greetings from the House Floor,

 The February budget forecast came out last week and puts Minnesota in a better fiscal position than what the November budget forecast reported. The overall deficit for the state is $627 million going into fiscal year 2014-15, which is a $463 million improvement from November.

For the current biennium, we are at a $295 million surplus. However, that money must go to paying back the schools ($290 million) and into the reserve fund ($5 million). From my perspective, although this is very good news, the state needs to stay focused on establishing a more balanced structural approach to the budget and investing in the areas that are necessary for a strong Minnesota in the future. Now that the forecast is out, committees will begin putting together their budgets and the committee hearings will be long and frequent.

The House passed two bills last week related to electronic funds transfers and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board joint dedication fee for the city. Today, we are taking up the Health Insurance Exchange bill on the floor. I anticipate a very long debate as many amendments have been filed. The State of Minnesota has a deadline to approve a state-run health insurance exchange by the end of March or a federal “one-size-fits-all” exchange will be implemented. I see this as our opportunity to develop an exchange that will work best for Minnesota.

Senator Kent Eken and I had the opportunity to sit down with business leaders in Moorhead recently to discuss Governor Dayton’s budget and tax proposals. It was a very productive conversation and allowed both of us to hear how the governor’s proposed policies would impact the district on the ground level. Talks on the budget for fiscal year 2014-15 will advance very rapidly over the next couple of weeks in St. Paul, and I appreciate the willingness of folks to take time out of their schedules to meet with us. As always, I encourage anyone to contact me with questions and comments as the legislative session advances.

Thank You for the Opportunity to Serve,