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Opinion: A snapshot does not tell the whole story

This week, state officials released the biannual snapshot of Minnesota's economy. But the projected $188 million budget deficit — about 0.4 percent of the state's total budget — does not tell the whole story.

Nor does it accurately portray a booming Minnesota economy.

The forecast does not consider the tax reform currently making its way through Congress, which state officials admit will improve the budget outlook and spur statewide economic growth. The forecast also assumes $178 million in new state spending on the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—spending that will be reimbursed once Congress acts to reauthorize the program.

And with a reserve fund nearing $2 billion, coupled with a forthcoming February report anticipated to include higher-than-expected revenue, there is little reason to fret. Minnesota's budget is right on track.

In fact, Minnesota's economy is one of the strongest in the nation—and for good reason.

At just 3.3 percent, state unemployment is at its lowest level since 2000. Our state has experienced more than seven years of year-over-year unadjusted unemployment expansion. Wage growth is projected to increase from 2.8 percent in 2016 to 4.7 percent in 2018. Consumer confidence is way up. And Minnesota's exports increased at a more robust pace than the national average.

Growing our state's economy has been one of my highest priorities as the leader of the Minnesota Senate, and the work done during the historically-productive 2017 legislative session reflects that commitment. Thanks to Republican-led efforts in expanding the workforce, cutting back on unnecessary government regulation, and investing back in the people of our state, the path forward is bright.

A critical component of growing and maintaining a robust economy is investing in those who keep it churning. And these hardworking men and women across Minnesota have given us many reasons to be proud.

I believe that spirit is a worthwhile investment. That's why the Republican Legislature made it a priority this session to put more of your money back into your pockets instead of the government's coffers. Republicans passed a $650 million tax relief package that provides relief for millions of Minnesotans—relief for seniors and Social Security income, farmers and property taxes, small businesses and government red tape, college students and mounting loans, and others. Those savings will be pumped right back into the economy, furthering Minnesota's economic boom.

The legislature will wait for the upcoming February budget forecast, and a much clearer representation of the state's economy, before making any policy decisions. That will be just about the time seniors, farmers, small business owners, and college students will begin seeing the benefits of the tax reform passed during the 2017 session.

By nearly every measure, Minnesota remains a great place to live, work, and raise our families. And as we look forward to 2018, I'm confident the legislature will work hard to preserve the state's financial integrity and advance Minnesota into the next decade and beyond.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is the leader of the Minnesota Senate. He is in his third term representing District 9, which includes communities in Cass, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties.

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