Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last week I was featured on TPT’s Almanac at the Capitol program in a segment about the role of government. In the five minute interview I talked about government growth, business regulation, education and my legislative principles while TPT's David Gillette illustrated the main points. It was a great experience and I would encourage all of you to take five minutes to watch the segment here.
This week I joined a lawsuit filed in federal court that seeks to require that state and county officials first confirm eligibility of people registering on Election Day before certifying ballots. The state constitution makes certain requirements for upholding voting integrity, and I feel as though we are not doing all that we can to honor our constitutional right to fair elections.
After my House re-election effort in 2008 failed by 89 votes and I observed the recount, I knew that I needed to work to change the way we verify voting integrity in Minnesota. Even after a recount and almost four years, there are still 242 election-day registrants that have not been verified from that election. It seems like common sense that all registrants be verified, especially during a recount.
I hope that this lawsuit will shine some light on the same-day registration problem we have with the voting system in this state. I will keep you updated as developments arise.
On another very important note, the Minnesota Management and Budget’s February forecast, released this week, showed an increased budget surplus of $323 million. This, in addition to the $876 million surplus from November’s forecast, adds up to a $1.2 billion projected increase for the current biennium.
Our great legislative initiatives from last session and better-than-expected economic growth have helped to turn a $5.1 billion deficit to a $1.2 billion surplus in one year's time. This is a remarkable turnaround! Had we raised taxes by billions of dollars instead of reducing spending, this positive economic news would have been severely jeopardized.
You can find a statement on the surplus by Rep. Kurt Zellers, the Speaker of the House, here.
While most of this surplus will be used to replenish state reserves, $318 million will go to repaying school aid shifts. There is still work to be done to finish repaying the shift and get our budget back to balanced, but these forecasts clearly show that we are headed in the right direction.
In addition to the budget surplus, Minnesota's 5.7-percent unemployment rate is well below the 8.5-percent national average. This difference is greater than normal, signaling that our state's economy is in better shape than most. Minnesota's unemployment rate is also falling faster than the national average.
Now that we’ve seen the substantial benefits of last year’s efforts, it is clear that responsible government reformation is the common sense solution for Minnesota’s economic woes. This year we have already begun to build on last year’s successes by introducing legislation that will improve the way Minnesota government programs are run. To learn more about these reforms or to track specific bills visit: http://www.minnesotahousegop.com/reform2/
This week the Education Policy/Reform Committee, which I chair, debated a bill that would permit a school to start prior to Labor Day. I am a strong supporter of local control when it comes to decisions like this. Districts, schools and parents are the best judges of what starting date works best for their communities and students, so why would we deny them that opportunity?
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on the legislative session.