The first step in discussing the state budget is establishing a baseline for where we are now.
Minnesota Department of Revenue Deputy Commissioner Matt Massman says, "We have a projected budget deficit of 627 million dollars.
Massman says that is a $463 million improvement from Novembers forecast, but difficult decisions still remain.
Massman says, "If you have some investment obviously you need some new revenue in order to both resolve that deficit and then to fund new initiatives."
After establishing where we are now, local legislators Senator Kathy Sheran, Representative Kathy Brynaert, and Representative Clark Johnson wanted to hear from their constituents about their ideas to create a stable budget for the future.
Among the discussion, the current imbalance between revenue streams like property tax, sales tax, and income tax, and the increased burden that puts on the middle and lower class.
Massman says, "What revenue we are getting in isn't even paying if our debts or deficit, so what we are hear about is how do you want to reorganize the tax system and are you willing to pay the 5–cent gas tax and are you willing to tax service...tell us what you are willing to do in order to get a change in what is going on."
Part of Governor Dayton's budget plan is to increase income taxes 2% on the wealthiest 2% of the population.
Massman says, "That proposal in the governments package raise 1.1 billion dollars."
Some say the increase isn't need, others are enthusiastic.
One attendee said, "If somehow someday I am in that 4th year income bracket, I am happy to pay more, so do it."
After the weekend lawmakers will head back to the legislature to continue to hash out a budget...this time with plenty of new suggestions from constituents.
Town hall meeting were held in both St. Peter and North Mankato.