$1.65 Billion Budget Surplus Awaits Minnesota Lawmakers

February 28, 2017 07:03 PM

Minnesota's projected budget surplus has grown to more than $1.65 billion, a quarter-billion dollars more than forecast in November.

State budget officials released the updated figures Tuesday, but Gov. Mark Dayton urged caution when addressing what to do with the money.


"The uncertainty surrounding this budget forecast demand extreme caution and restraint from my administration, the Legislature and various affected interest groups," Dayton said at a news conference. "We worked hard to achieve these budget surpluses. They must be preserved."

The revised estimate kicks off the Legislature's budget-setting process at the Capitol this year. Lawmakers will need to approve a new budget before adjourning in late May.

Dayton has proposed a nearly $46 billion, two-year budget, and said he wants to continue to put money into early education and save some of the money to prepare the state for future economic downturns.

But the Republican-led Legislature says it would like to cut taxes and put some of the surplus into projects like repairing some of the state's aging infrastructure.

At a news conference following Dayton's remarks, Republican legislative leaders pointed out there's not only a $1.65 billion surplus, but another $2 billion in the budget reserve. House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Minnesotans deserve tax relief.

"We really need to keep the growth of state government below what Minnesota family budgets are growing or what Minnesota's economy is growing," Daudt said. "That just makes common sense. So we think the best thing to do with the surplus is reinvest it back into Minnesotans. Lets give them some of their money back."

GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka agreed.

"We're talking about a number of areas we want to provide tax relief," he said. "At this point I think we're more general in just saying we're going to have a significant tax relief package."

Gazelka suggested as possibilities property tax relief for small businesses and farmers, along with Social Security income tax exemptions and student loan tax credits.

The governor said he'll propose a supplemental budget to incorporate these new numbers by March 13. Lawmakers have set early deadlines, some by the end of March, to pass budget bills so they can leave plenty of time to negotiate with the governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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