We’ve had a $4 billion turnaround (5/11/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/11/2020

Good afternoon,

In February, Minnesota was looking at a projected $1.5 billion budget surplus. Weeks later, COVID-19 cases in Minnesota were discovered, and the governor issued executive orders for residents to stay at home and for “non-essential” businesses to close.

Since then we’ve had a $4 billion turnaround, as that $1.5 billion surplus has now become a nearly $2.5 billion budget deficit.

It’s really not a surprise, as I’ve been warning about this for weeks. The forecast showed that sales tax collections are down $1.3 billion, and individual income tax collections are down $1.65 billion. Minnesota unemployment claims stand at the highest rate since the Great Depression.

It’s predictable math when fewer people are working and have less money to spend – revenues are going to decline.

Moving forward, everyone at the Capitol needs to be a part of this solution. We can’t expect families and small businesses to shoulder all of this financial crisis. State government needs to be looking at its spending and find ways to curb it, because incoming revenues are drying up rapidly.

Of course, Minnesota will begin to crawl out of this mess once all businesses are allowed to safely re-open. When more people are earning a paycheck and spending their money on goods and services, statewide collections will rise.

Recently Governor Walz lifted some restrictions on doctors, dentists, and veterinarians to perform some elective surgeries and procedures. While this was a step in right direction, it doesn’t go far enough in some cases.

Throughout this process, I’ve been working with Hastings business owners. They have sought clarity as to whether or not they can remain open and what functions they can perform. I have sent numerous questions, requests, and safety operational plans to the Governor’s Office on their behalf as they try to get back on their feet.

Recently I contacted them to reiterate the importance of giving bars and restaurants lead time for reordering food and beverage. Whether they are ordered to stay closed or not, they deserve to know so they can properly plan.

Lately I’ve been working with a number of dentists who have developed plans to keep their patients and employees safe, and are looking for the governor to allow them to-reopen. Hopefully we’ll hear some positive news in the coming days, as most of them are struggling right now and have no cash flow. We have to find a way to safely get them back to work as well.

GRADUATION CEREMONIES CANCELED

On Friday the Governor’s Office released guidance banning graduation ceremonies statewide, regardless of class size or space available for the ceremony. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

I heard from countless parents over the weekend who were upset with the administration’s decision, and I joined dozens of other lawmakers in writing a letter to the Governor’s Office Monday urging reconsideration of the move. To me it’s unfortunate the administration doesn’t trust local school officials to act safely and responsibly when planning a ceremony for our graduating senior students, and it’s clear a lot of local parents share my frustration.

If you are the parent or grandparent of a high school graduate and would like your student to receive a personalized congratulatory letter, I would be happy to write one to them. Please contact me at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn. Otherwise, due to district policies, we can only send “Dear Graduate” letters.

NATIONAL GUARD FLYOVER HONORS FRONT LINE WORKERS

On Wednesday, I visited to Hastings Veterans Home to see the breathtaking Minnesota National Guard 148th Fighter Wing F-16 jets and 133rd Airlift Wing C-130 Hercules fly over Hastings to honor those working on the front lines to fight COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of spectators were on hand, and we were also entertained by two soaring bald eagles before the flyover.

Be well,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Governor Walz has extended MN’s stay at home order (5/1/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/1/2020

Good afternoon,

As you’ve likely heard, Governor Walz has decided to extend Minnesota’s stay at home order until May 18 and allow currently-shuttered retail businesses to open for curbside purchases.

It’s a small step forward, but I wish more could have been done. Our shuttered businesses are struggling mightily right now and while curbside purchases are better than nothing, I know most of the business owners I’ve spoken with were hoping for much better news coming out of the Governor’s Office.

In addition, it was announced that there will be a modification of the executive order on elective medical procedures in the coming days. This week I joined many of my Republican colleagues in sending a letter to Governor Walz asking the governor to reconsider that order and allow hospitals and other healthcare providers to have flexibility in how they treat patients, and allow them to consider how and where they can safely treat COVID-19 patients and those seeking non-COVID care while maintaining capacity and without compromising PPE. Hopefully we’ll some new guidance in the coming days.

Also next week we are expecting Minnesota Management and Budget to come out with a revised budget forecast. As you recall the most recent forecast called for a $1.5 billion surplus but with revenue down and spending up, that surplus cannot be counted on. Once we have the revised projection, our spending the remainder of this session will need to be adjusted as well as spending that was approved in our budget bills in 2019.

Be well,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Some office-based businesses will be able to reopen on Monday (4/24/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/24/2020

Good afternoon,

On Thursday, the governor announced that industrial, manufacturing, and office-based businesses will be able to reopen on Monday if they have safety plans in place.

According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), in order to reopen, these businesses are required to do three things:

1. Create and share with their employees a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that explains the actions they are taking to ensure social distancing and keep workers safe. The Department of Labor and Industry has created a template plan, which is optional for businesses to use as a starting point.

2. Engage in health screening of employees each day at arrival.

3. Continue to use telework whenever possible.

For more information, visit https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/covid/safework/

I’ve had local retail businesses ask if they can sell their products with curbside pickup like restaurants are allowed to do. This request makes perfect sense to me as it can be done as safely as picking up your dinner. Unfortunately, DEED did not agree. The response we heard was that curbside retail pickup can only be allowed if the item being purchased is essential.

I’ve talked to the Minnesota Retailers Association, and that organization is obviously supportive of the local request. I’ve also reached out to the Governor’s office and shared these concerns.

On several fronts, it’s good news that many employees will be heading back to work this coming week, and hopefully more businesses will be able to follow suit very soon when they can safely do so.

DISTANCE LEARNING WILL CONTINUE FOR K-12 STUDENTS

Also on Thursday, Governor Walz made the decision to keep students at home for the remainder of the school year as distance learning will continue.

While this move is being made for the health and safety of students and staff, it’s tough not to feel bad for our graduating seniors, who are missing out on things like spring sports, activities, and proms. All of us share in their disappointment, but hopefully the Class of 2020 will get to take part in a graduation ceremony at a later date when its safe for everyone to gather and celebrate their accomplishments.

HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARINGS CONTINUE

As less than a month remains in session, many committees are trying to wrap up their work and get bills to the House floor. Many of us have a new concern due to the COVID-19 pandemic: additional state spending.

Keep in mind our projected $1 billion surplus has disappeared thanks to coronavirus. Last week I heard one state economist suggest that due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, the more than $2 billion we have in budget reserves may also not be enough to cover our losses.

In other words, we need to be careful if spending bills are approved without citing a revenue source, because at this point we appear to be out of money.

I’ll keep you posted as session moves forward.

Be well,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Radio Interview (4/15/2020)

kdwaOnce again this year I’ll be visiting about the legislative session on KDWA.

Here’s my latest KDWA InDepth radio program.

This week I give an update on the definition of essential workers under Governor Walz’z Executive Order, and the push to allow restaurants to provide beer and wine with curbside ordering.

Listen to State Representative Tony Jurgens on InDepth radio conversation on KDWA.

Rep. Tony Jurgens, District 54B