Thursday, December 4, 2008

Week of November 30, 2008

Budget forecast is grim: On Thursday, December 4th, the state released a budget forecast for the fiscal biennium beginning July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2011. The projected deficit is $4.8 billion. There was also a forecast for the fiscal year (the current one) ending June 30, 2009, and there is a deficit there of $425 million. So the total deficit is $5.2 billion.

You can see the whole forecast at the web site of Minnesota Management and Budget. Video archives of the news conference by the finance commissioner and state economist are also on-line.

Legislators are being interviewed by the media or are holding their own press conferences to share some ideas for balancing the budget. I would not hold your breath on some of these ideas, like selling the Minneapolis airport. We have a long way to go to the end of session in late May, so I and others here are trying to be patient, look at all our options, and talk to constituents and stakeholders about what effects our actions will have. I look forward to your ideas in the weeks and months to come.

Drinking water profiles for cities in District 53A: The Met Council has produced a draft Master Water Supply Plan for review before the legislation session. There are city profiles for each city in the seven-county metro area, and they project how much groundwater they will need through the year 2050. The data profiles are in appendix 2 in the report link above. Here are what the six cities in 53A may have to do between now and 2050.

Blaine: 13 new groundwater wells necessary through 2050!
Circle Pines: No additional groundwater wells necessary
Lexington: No additional groundwater wells necessary
Lino Lakes: One new additional groundwater well necessary every ten years through 2050
North Oaks (using data from White Bear Township): No additional groundwater wells necessary
Shoreview: One new additional groundwater well necessary about 2040

Subcommittee dissolved: On Friday, the Speaker announced our committee structure for the next session. The number of committees has been cut by 15%, and a lot of subcommittees have been eliminated. The purpose was to simplify our committee process. At my request, the Speaker eliminated the Drinking Water Source Protection Subcommittee that I chaired. We could never find a regular time to meet and it was hard to get a quorum, and I figure I can get just as much done on protecting our drinking water by working within our existing environmental policy and finance committee.

Twin Cities Best for Business: MarketWatch, a web publication of the Wall Street Journal, just recognized the Twin Cities for the second year in a row for being the best metro area for business.

Schedule: On Monday, December 1st, I attended a meeting of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission at the State Office Building. My Republican colleague Dean Urdahl leads the group and I'm the other legislator on the group. In the evening I attended a fundraiser for the DFL House Caucus. On Tuesday, December 2nd, I attended a presentation by the Met Council on their drinking water supply plan. In the evening, I attended a meeting of our local DFL Senate District. On Wednesday, December 3rd, several legislators and I participated in a conference on "Assessing, Managing and Communicating Environmental Risk" hosted by the Center for Science, Technology & Public Policy at the U of M's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. On Thursday, December 4th, I attended a meeting of the Legislative Coordinating Commission Working Group on Ethnic Heritage & New Americans, where I made a presentation giving a historical perspective on immigration in Minnesota. In the afternoon, I participated in a meeting at the MN Pollution Control Agency where staff sought input on a report I requested on product stewardship.

Visitors: State Revisor on progress toward greater transparency on omnibus bills; Met Council staff regarding community based transit (e.g., dial-a-ride) services; four high school students asking for input on an environmental legislation proposal; staff from MN Department of Veterans Affairs about a constituent issue; student reporter from Hamline University about recent political developments; staff from a human services agency in the northern suburbs about transportation issues; lobbyists from Waste Management, Chamber of Commerce, and chemical companies about environmental issues coming up before the legislature; another state representative about transit issues; staff from the MPCA and Ramsey County about safe disposal of unused pharmaceutical products and how to avoid having them get in our drinking water

Constituent contacts: Blaine resident asking that human services budget be spared when balancing the budget; Shoreview resident interested in the opt-out option for phone books; two Shoreview residents against tax increases to balance the budget; Lino Lakes resident supporting a new Vikings stadium (although not necessarily built with public funding); Shoreview resident seeking bike lane on Highway 49; three Lino Lakes residents asking for revisions to last year's Green Acres law