Christmas has come early in Minnesota.
After an intense battle over government spending shut down its government for 20 days this summer, the state now is forecasting an $876 million surplus over the next two years. That’s a huge surprise compared to the $5 billion projected deficit that Minnesota expected in July, setting off a national, highly-partisan battle over the best way to close that gap.
What changed? State officials chalk a lot of the good news up to factors specific to Minnesota. The state has seen its revenue increase as its unemployment rate is lower than the national average. The state has, for example, regained about a third of the jobs lost since the recession began. Nationally, that number stands at 22 percent.
Minnesota has also cut its spending, particularly on health care, in unique ways. It’s one of just four states, for example, to expand its Medicaid program in advance of the health reform law’s required expansion. For doing so, it’s received a higher Medicaid matching rate for some patients from the federal government.
I remember reading something a few months ago about how the new Republican Governors were getting all of the media attention for their shenanigans while their Democratic counterparts were digging in to the tough work of getting the job done. That's a perfect description of Democrat Mark Dayton's administration here in Minnesota.
But hold on - news like this could be coming soon to your state as well.
In a report today, the National Conference of State Legislatures finds that state revenues are “stabilized or are growing” across the country, with an average 1.9 percent increase in state revenue expected in 2012. Only four states have seen a budget shortfall since this fiscal year began, compared to 15 states at the same point in 2010.