Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
On Friday, Minnesota budget officials released an updated forecast for the state’s finances in the 2022-23 period, predicting a $1.6 billion surplus. Previously, it was predicted that the COVID-caused recession would leave Minnesota in the red, but better-than-expected revenue, federal aid, and reduced state spending reversed the situation. It appears likely that the surplus could end up even higher if federal aid continues to boost the state’s balance sheet, though another reversal is also possible.
As with Minnesota weather forecasts, budget forecasts are subject to change, and often unpredictable, but this is good news for the state’s finances overall. However, it also symbolizes a painful aspect of the COVID-19 recession: lower-income Minnesotans have greatly suffered, while higher-income households – which form a larger percentage of state revenue – have seen their situations remain stable or even improve.
What does this mean for Minnesota’s environment?
Reducing the pressures of an impending budget crunch should make the Legislature more free to invest in Minnesota’s economic recovery, and it’s important to dedicate new resources to critical environmental and conservation efforts.. The priorities that MEP and our partners are working for this year would serve our climate needs and support Minnesotans’ lives and livelihoods:
- Regenerative Agriculture – Proposals to revitalize Minnesota’s depleted soil and the farmers who depend on it are in the works this year, including the “Incentivizing 100% Soil Healthy Farming” bill. The bill would provide financial incentives and support for farmers to implement soil-health practices that would improve their incomes and our natural environment. Along the same lines, MEP is continuing its long term support for full funding for the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota, where scientists are developing crops that restore land, keep water clean, and help us respond to a changing climate.
- Clean Energy on Schools – By making investments in clean electricity infrastructure, we can speed the transition to a 100% carbon-free electricity in Minnesota. This includes grants for solar in state parks and on schools. (Check out this house committee hearing video to learn more about the Solar on Schools bill.)
- Minnesota Forests – Minnesota’s trees have an important role to play in addressing carbon pollution, and one bill at the Legislature would help grow more, with a goal of one million plantings each year from 2022-2025. This includes investments in state forests, incentives for private landowners, and replacements of trees lost to emerald ash borer.
Minnesota’s budget should work for people and our natural environment, whether we face a budget deficit or a surplus. We hope that legislators see this year as an opportunity for long-term investments in a healthy future.