Hello from St. Paul,
The 2012 Legislative Session will begin tomorrow, and I’m pleased to report that this session will not be dominated by budget talks. Economic experts have projected a nearly $1 billion surplus for this fiscal year, and by law that money will be dedicated to the cash flow and reserve accounts, then paying off the shift. This means the Legislature will continue focusing on government reform and creating jobs.
Reform measures that were enacted into law at the end of last session helped us turn a $5 billion deficit into a nearly $1 billion surplus in less than one year. Employment numbers in Minnesota have also turned around. Our unemployment rate is now 5.7%, down from 7.5% just one year ago, and 70,000 more Minnesotans have found work during that time.
Based on these positive numbers, legislative leadership thought it was critical to build on this success. Over the past few months, meetings were held across the state to gather input from Minnesotans on how they want to make state government more efficient. The result is an agenda called Reform 2.0, which will focus on three areas: jobs and a growing economy, education and health care, and streamlining state government.
As we heard last year from numerous job creators, keys to make business thrive in this state include a more competitive tax climate and reduced government interference. Last session we made good progress towards improving the time it takes secure a business permit in this state. This session we will continue our efforts to reduce the number of mandates that hinder business success as well as expand the opportunities to make Minnesota a more business-friendly state.
The key to a high quality workforce begins with a highly-educated employee. Test scores for Minnesota students have begun to slip, so the time to improve our education system is right now through reform and innovation. This session we will push for initiatives designed to close the achievement gap, improve struggling schools, and reward the teachers who are the best of the best.
The time is also right to continue reforming health care. Last session, we were able to slow projected growth in this area from 22% to 6% based on needed reforms. This year, we will push for additional measures that will reduce health care costs, reform our generous welfare system and put Minnesotans not government in charge of their own health care decisions.
Finally, we need to improve the efficiency of how state government operates. While most Minnesotans embrace new technology and appreciate how it makes life easier, our government ignores it by and continues to operate using 1980’s standards.
That’s unacceptable in today’s marketplace, and everyone from prospective business owners to everyday Minnesotans is frustrated by government’s insistence to live in the past. That needs to change this year, and our reform agenda will not only address government’s inefficiencies, but will also focus on government transparency and eliminating outdated or duplicative rules and programs.
From my perspective, the highlights of the 2011 budget agreement were the numerous reforms that helped turn our economy around. With any luck, Reform 2.0 will make a similar impact in 2012.
Talk to you soon,