Minnesota’s new state economist has been an understudy for the role.
Laura Kalambokidis has some big shoes to fill, but she’s not coming in cold.
The incoming state economist’s specialty is public finance and economics, and she’s worked with her predecessor, Tom Stinson, for 13 years at the University of Minnesota. The last two times Stinson put out the annual revenue forecast, which is the main responsibility of the job, Kalambokidis observed the process.
Meanwhile, the two colleagues have offices in the same building at the U, so he’ll be nearby if she has questions.
Kalambokidis, 49, will take over the job in July. She sat for an interview last week.
Q: What appeals to you about this position?
A: I’ve watched Tom do this job for a long time and I admire the impact he’s had, in terms of providing good analysis for public policy decisionmakers in Minnesota, and I appreciate the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. I have worked with or around government my whole career and I appreciate public service, and I’m eager to work in it again.
Q: When Stinson announced he was stepping down last week, you said you were excited about the range of questions you’ll get to address as state economist. What are those?
A: What’s happening in various industries: What’s happening in mining? What’s happening in agriculture? What’s happening in medical devices? That’s a set of questions that are more detailed than forecasting for the whole country. There are also all manner of tax questions. There have been a number of changes made by the Legislature and the governor recently. So how are those changes going to affect the revenue forecast coming in, and when? I’m surprised at the range of questions that Tom gets asked. I wasn’t surprised that people expected him to know everything about the forecast, but I didn’t expect that people would expect him to know everything about everything.
Q: What’s the first thing on your agenda?
A: The annual forecast is the thing that’s first on my agenda, to understand that process and do that well. Once I’ve been through that process, I understand the state economy much better.
Q: What’s your assessment of the state economy?
A: We’re expecting sustained, modest growth this year. We’re doing better with regard to unemployment than the nation as a whole and a little better than we usually do relative to the nation as a whole, and that’s positive. There are still external threats, mostly coming from the federal government and the fiscal drag that we may feel.
Q: You still think the sequester could have an impact?