Minnesota officials have set Dec. 3 for the release of the next budget forecast, a twice-annual economic update that will show lawmakers just how deeply the ongoing corona­virus pandemic has impacted the state's bottom line.

Earlier numbers suggest the picture will be grim. An unprecedented budget update in May showed a $2.4 billion pandemic-triggered deficit for the budget year that ends in June. The state's top budgeting agency also forecast a $4.7 billion deficit in the next two-year budget.

But revenue collections over the past several months have exceeded projections, giving some lawmakers hope that the overall deficit could be smaller.

Lawmakers are dealing with an unusual amount of budgeting uncertainty because of the pandemic. The timing of a COVID-19 vaccine will determine how quickly the economy recovers, and state lawmakers are waiting for word on whether Congress will send more relief to states and local governments as they battle the virus.

Gov. Tim Walz will use the December numbers to shape his proposal to balance the state's next two-year budget. The Republican-led Senate and DFL-controlled House use updated numbers in February to craft their budget plans.

Under the state Constitution, Minnesota lawmakers must pass a balanced budget by the end of July or state government will shut down. The last time government shut down was in 2011, when then-DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and a Republican-run Legislature clashed on how to balance a more than $5 billion budget deficit.

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