The state of Minnesota is projected to have a $1.4 billion budget surplus when the fiscal year ends next June. Labor leaders caution against spending it on tax breaks for the wealthy.
Minnesota Management and Budget released its forecast Friday, saying the state’s “budget and economic outlook remains stable, despite continued slow economic growth.”
The state is projected to end the two-year budget period that ends June 30, 2017, in the black by $678 million. Adding in the $334 million in the budget reserve, the state will have a $1.4 million surplus.
“The budget forecast is good news for working Minnesotans,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy.
“However, with the incoming presidential administration’s unclear policy goals, now is not the time for the reckless tax giveaways that some lawmakers are already calling for.
“With yet another budget surplus, our policy makers have a new opportunity to invest in our state’s infrastructure and education to create the kinds of jobs that can sustain working families.”
AFSCME Council 5, a union representing 43,000 workers, including thousands in state and local government, concurred.
“Governor [Mark] Dayton has moved Minnesota from deficit to surplus, but there’s more work to be done,” said Eliot Seide, director of Council 5. “With an uncertain economy under the new Trump administration, state legislators must resist the urge to blow the surplus on huge tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations headquartered in the metro area.
“All Minnesotans deserve a fair shot at a better future – no matter who they are or where they live. That’s why we need to focus on fair taxes, decent wages, and responsible investments in better transportation, smarter students, healthier families, safer communities, and cleaner water for everyone.”
Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, reminded lawmakers of the important role that education plays in the state.
“The men and women educated by Minnesota’s public schools and colleges continue to drive our economy forward, but that progress will slow if our leaders fail to invest in the possibilities of the next generation of Minnesotans,” Specht said. “Everyone in our state benefits when all students are given an equal opportunity to become a great leader, innovator or discoverer, regardless of where they live.
“Investing in opportunities for students in every corner of the state starts with confronting the teacher shortage; providing students with modern, functional buildings in which to learn; making college affordable; hiring enough counselors and support staff; and giving every family access to high-quality preschool. Educators know lawmakers will face many demands for resources in 2017, but we hope they remember that public education is the engine of our economy, and that engines need fuel.”
Dayton is expected to release his budget for the 2017-2019 biennium in late January. The budget will be a major agenda item for the state Legislature, which convenes in early January.