As a former Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) Commissioner, I am frequently asked about the practical differences in the three methods the State of Minnesota uses to provide economic and budget information to the general public and the Legislature. The most important and comprehensive economic and budget reports are the November and February Forecasts. The Economic Updates, published quarterly, are next in importance and depth of information. Finally, the Monthly Revenue Updates issued on the 10th of every month have the least amount of information.
Minnesota Statutes, Section 16A.103 require that MMB “prepare a forecast of state revenue and expenditures” in February and November of each year. The November forecast provides useful information to the Governor as he prepares his budget recommendations while the February Forecast gives the Governor the opportunity to make revisions to his budget with the latest numbers. The Legislature always develops its budget recommendations using the February Forecast.
So what makes the November and February Forecasts so important? Unlike the Economic Updates or the Monthly Revenue Updates, the forecasts provide a comprehensive update on revenues and expenditures along with future estimates for each. In addition, each forecast provides a detailed economic forecast for Minnesota along with a thorough analysis of the national economy. This information is critical for developing comprehensive biennial budgets
The Economic Updates are issued four times a year, on the tenth of the month following each quarter of the year, January 10th, April 10th, July 10th, and October 10th. Included in these reports are a summary of revenue collections and an analysis of the national economy. Economic Updates do not address expenditures nor do they address the specifics of the Minnesota economy. This lack of information hinders the development of comprehensive budgets.
The Monthly Revenue Updates are issued on the 10th day of every month and summarize the collection of revenue. This report does not include expenditures nor does it include any analysis of the Minnesota or national economy. In fact, it reports the revenue collections and includes very little commentary on the meaning of the numbers. Monthly Revenue Updates are seldom longer than one page.
To get a complete picture of revenues and expenditures, rely on the November or February Forecasts. In between these forecasts, the Monthly Revenue Updates will give you a sense of a trend in revenue collections while the Economic Updates will shed some light on the national economy. But remember, no snapshot of Minnesota’s biennial budget is complete unless you include revenues AND expenditures.