by Dennis Dalman
Like a good omen of spring, Minnesota has two harbingers of good news – another budget surplus and a greatly improved unemployment rate.
Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) announced the good news in an email letter to his constituents earlier this week.
The unemployment rate is now 5.8 percent, three points lower than the national average – a good indication, O’Driscoll said, that the state’s economy is better than those of most states.
According to the Minnesota Management and Budget’s February forecast, there is a surplus of $323 million. That amount is in addition to the November forecast of an $876 million surplus. And so, that adds up to a $1.2-billion increase for the current biennium.
O’Driscoll said legislative initiatives, combined with a better-than-expected economic growth have helped turn a $5.1-billion deficit to a $1.2-billion surplus in just one year’s time.
“This is a remarkable turn-around,” O’Driscoll said. “While most of this surplus will be used to replenish state reserves, $318 million will go to repaying school-aid shifts. As I’ve suggested before, these numbers are subject to economic conditions. We must remain diligent and stick to the reforms and responsible budgeting that brought us to this point.”
The surpluses, however, show the state is heading in the right direction, O’Driscoll added.