Senator Julie Rosen visited Watonwan County Tuesday evening to discuss mental health, road and bridges, child care, broadband, and more ongoing issues before taking the information back to the capitol.
As the chair of finance, Rosen explained the 1.332 billion budget came from high revenue and low spending. Minnesota has lower debt and a lower unemployment rate than the US average. The surplus has a forecast change of 891 million. It's mandated 33% be transfer to the reserve funding, around 284 million.
"We have one of the highest budget reserves in the nation," said Rosen.
Commissioner Jim Branstad questioned the case of counties having to pay back the Department of Human Services for the error funding received from the federal government.
"I don't think there's anyone in the legislature that wants the counties to be responsible," said Rosen. "It's a question of do you take [from] the surplus, which taxpayers are paying, for a DHS mistake? Or do you have DHS find the money? They can find $9.8 million."
From the Watonwan Human Services, Director Naomi Ochsendorf addressed the Rule 20 examinations, psychological or psychiatric assessments, will no longer be able to be completed without an alcohol and drug counselor or a social worker with the experience. Watonwan doesn't have the required licensed workers or a treatment center.
"It's going to be a real crisis in the rural area," said Ochsendorf.
The closest licensed counselors are in Fairmont, Mankato, or New Ulm.
"Our people don't have the transportation," said Ochsendorf. "So, that becomes a probation violation."
From Public Works Director Teal Spellman, she projected the next 25 years the department will have a $250 million shortfall, a $10 million shortfall per year. She based the projection on the funding the department has received in the last ten years.
After looking at numbers from the last two years, "One county received a 15% increase and one county [lost] 5%," said Spellman. "It just doesn't really make sense to me."
Watonwan currently has 67% of roads in poor or fair condition. Spellman stated the state regulations recently changed, where they want 40%.
Commissioner Bob Rinne later shared his concern over the strict regulations when having daycare.
"It's just unbelievable the things the state makes them do," said Rinne. "It almost makes it impossible for somebody to open up a daycare... I guess I'd just like to see them maybe loosen up a little bit."
Commission Bill Miller also shared his concern for building funding because the county would like to improve buildings to keep them from staying empty.
"People and businesses are walking away from these buildings, and it comes back to us," said Miller. "I think there could be some help there."
Watonwan was Rosen's seventh county and last visit of the day. She appreciated the opportunity to hear what is happening within counties and have lively discussions.