Good humor likely will come in handy. Kalambokidis, 49, not only has recently taken over for Tom Stinson, one of the best liked, most knowledgeable and skilled state employees of recent times. As state economist, Kalambokidis knows, she has a nettlesome job with a steep learning curve in front of her.
At age 70, after 26 years as Minnesota’s top economic soothsayer, Tom Stinson’s retirement hardly came as a shock. He was already by far the longest-serving state economist — none of his predecessors held the position for more than five years — and he had a comfortable side job teaching economics at the University of Minnesota.
Current University of Minnesota applied economics professor Laura Kalambokidis will take over as state economist, making her the first woman to serve in the role since the position was created in 1975. Stinson, 70, was first named state economist since 1987, holding a job for decades that economists before him only held for several years at a time.
After two months of negligible action at the Capitol, serious work will now begin on the main agenda for the 2013 legislative session: crafting a budget for the next biennium.
The budget surplus can largely be attributed to a $230 million decrease in spending, mostly in lower-than-anticipated enrollment in Health and Human Services programs. The state also took in about $93 million more in revenues than anticipated, state budget officials announced on Wednesday.
Positive budget news has been in short supply at the Capitol in recent years. So it’s no surprise that Republicans and DFLers alike greeted with relief the surprise announcement that the state is projected to have an $876 million surplus in the current two-year budget cycle.
State lawmakers are mulling a significant change to the state’s pension policy as they prepare for the 2012 legislative session.
Officials from MMB had some worrisome news on the state's fiscal future in light of the still-struggling economic recovery and increasing chance that the U.S. will face another recession.
The February 2011 budget forecast that knocked $1.2 billion off the state's recent budget deficit came with no shortage of caveats. Nearly half the rosier revenue picture was attributable to predicted capital gains collections, which are notoriously volatile.
The February forecast showed some hints of sunshine for Minnesota's budget troubles. The state's projected deficit for the next two-year budget cycle fell to $5 billion, a dip of nearly $1.2 billion from the previous estimate.
The 2010 elections bolstered the ranks of fiscally conservative Republicans in the Legislature. And that spells trouble for a bonding bill's prospects in the 2011 legislative session.
Minnesota is facing a fiscal mess. That much has been evident for a long time. Last November's budget forecast showed the state facing a $5.4 billion shortfall in the next two-year cycle. Three months later, that number had swelled to $5.8 billion. Put another way, that's roughly 20 percent of the state's total general fund budget in the current biennium.
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