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Status Report: Historical forecasts, not a threat, exports down

Historical forecasts: The State Economist is preparing a first-ever report that will compare Minnesota’s historical budget forecasts to actual revenue collections over time.

The report was mandated as part of the state’s 2016 omnibus supplemental budget bill, approved by the Legislature and signed into law on May 22.

Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, the House Ways and Means Committee chair, said he put the provision into the supplemental budget bill, which he also authored, to give fellow legislators a sense of the wide possible variations between budget forecasts and actual collected revenues.

It requires Minnesota Management and Budget to issue the report on “uncertainty in Minnesota’s general fund revenue projections” historically. Specifically, it asks for the estimated range of “forecast error for revenues.”

At the Dec. 5 Ways and Means Committee meeting, State Economist Laura Kalambokidis said she was uncomfortable reporting the difference between revenue projections and outcomes as “errors.”

“It’s the difference between what we forecast and what we ended up with and how that happened over time,” she said.

She said the report will be useful to legislators by giving them a statistical range of historic budget forecast variations.

Knoblach said in an interview after the meeting that the data should prove useful. “What is particularly useful to understand is that while we’ve got $1.4 billion as a projected surplus now, we could easily have a $2 billion deficit by the time we are sitting here in two and a half years,” Knoblach said. “Or we could have $2 billion more money than we expected.”

Lawmakers should take such variables into consideration as they debate spending bills, he said. “And I don’t think that a lot of legislators are always taking that into account,” he said.

The report is due 14 days after the release of the budget forecast, which would put its release date on Dec. 16.

Not a threat: The Minnesota Court of Appeals says merely expressing hope that someone will become subject to violence isn’t enough to convict them of actually threatening violence.

The court threw out the terroristic threats conviction of a Chisago City man who expressed hope that the state trooper who arrested him for drunken driving would get shot. But the panel let stand his convictions for drunken driving and test refusal.

According to Monday’s opinion, 66-year-old Gregory Allen Olson told the trooper: “I truly hope that you are one of the cops that gets their head blown off.” He later said, “I hope someone puts a slug in your head, you loser.”

The Appeals Court says Olson’s statements didn’t amount to a direct or indirect threat to commit a future crime of violence.

Exports down: Minnesota companies exported $4.9 billion worth of manufactured, agricultural and mining products in the third quarter of 2016, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

That lowers third-quarter exports by 2 percent from the same period a year ago, DEED said. U.S. exports also fell 2 percent during the period, while two-thirds of states posted export declines in the quarter.

Exports to Asia climbed 12 percent to $1.7 billion because of solid gains in China, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, the department said. Exports fell 9 percent in North America and 8 percent in Europe.

Exports to Africa climbed 40 percent to $52 million, driven by strong growth in Ethiopia and Algeria.

Canada was the state’s largest national market, with sales of $1.04 billion in the quarter (down 13 percent).

Optic and medical products was the top export category, with sales of $902 million (up 1 percent), according to DEED. Gains in Taiwan, the Netherlands and China in that category offset steep losses in Australia and Brazil, the department said.

The full third-quarter export report is online here. DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency.

What’s ahead: The Regent Candidate Advisory Council‘s Interview Process Committee will meet on Friday, Dec. 9, at 9 a.m. in Room 10 of the State Office Building to review and update interview questions for prospective University of Minnesota Regent candidates. The full council will meet an hour later in the same room; on its agenda is the selection of interviewees. Four of the 12 university regent positions are slated to be filled in 2017.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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