The news of the week is the arrival of the always long-awaited February Forecast. However, with just two weeks before the first deadline, several other issues are making headlines as well.
State Economic Forecast is Good News
Minnesota Management and Budget today released a new state economic forecast, showing a $1.6 billion surplus for the FY 2022-2023 biennium. The projected surplus in FY 2022-2023 is a major improvement over the December 2020 forecast, which predicted a $1.27 billion deficit for the same time period. In the next few weeks, Governor Tim Walz is expected to release supplemental budget recommendations that reflect this improved forecast. The House and Senate will begin assembling their respective budget plans as well.
Bonding Back on the Table
Just a few months after finally passing a bonding bill, the Governor has made recommendations for additional capital investment projects. Consisting of projects totaling over $500 million, approximately half relate to state agency and higher education asset preservation, $150 million is for rebuilding efforts due to last summer’s civil unrest, and $100 million is tagged for housing infrastructure. Typically the legislature focuses on capital investments in the second year of the biennium.
Telehealth Hearings Begin
The pandemic forced the medical industry to quickly transition from in-person to remote service delivery. While telemedicine has existed for several years, utilization has sky-rocketed over the last year, and both patients and clinicians have become much more comfortable with it. Much of this growth was only possible due to various pandemic-related waivers and modifications. Legislation is now moving through the House and Senate to update existing statutes to allow for the continuation of expanded use of telehealth.
Three different bills related to broadband were heard and laid over for possible inclusion in the Senate agriculture and economic development omnibus bill. Though they differed on specifics, each would provide funding for broadband expansion for the next biennium.
On Thursday, Governor Walz unveiled an expected timeline for when Minnesotans can expect to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The next phase, consisting of individuals with specific high-risk health conditions and food-processing plant workers, will begin when approximately 70 percent of Minnesota seniors aged 65 and older have received the vaccine (estimated to be by the end of March). Further details are in the infographic below and here: