AFSCME Calls on State Lawmakers to Invest Surplus Wisely

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

When Minnesota legislators start their next session on Jan. 3, they’ll have a modest surplus of $678 million to work with, according to the most recent budget and economic forecast.

That’s how much is left after the state socks away one-third of the money, $334 million, into our rainy-day fund. That number is lower than initially projected, and so is the $1.4 billion surplus state officials predict in 2018-2019.

“Minnesota’s budget and economic outlook remains stable, despite continued slow economic growth,” according to the report.

That’s why AFSCME Council 5 is joining Gov. Mark Dayton in calling for prudent use of the surplus.

“We call on the Legislature to focus investment on economic security for hardworking families throughout our state,” Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide says.

“Gov. Dayton has moved Minnesota from deficit to surplus, but there’s more work to be done,” Seide says. “Minnesota has a modest surplus – and our economy is uncertain with the new Trump administration. State legislators must resist the urge to blow the surplus on huge tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations that don’t need them.”

Seide says families are struggling with the rising costs of health care, child care and college, and money is tight.

“All Minnesotans deserve a fair shot at a better future – no matter who they are or where they live. Minnesota needs fair taxes and decent wages. And we need responsible investments in better transportation, smarter students, healthier families and safer communities for everyone.”       

Gov. Dayton points out that the forecast happened before the election, and nobody knows yet what that will mean.

“We're in a time of continued economic insecurity,” he says.

“We need to be cautious and prudent, and recognize that our economic growth is constrained by the national economic growth … and also the ceiling in our labor force, which is really impacting businesses who want to expand,” Dayton says.

When Dayton took office, he inherited a $6.2 billion deficit from Pawlenty, and the state owed $2 billion to the schools. Dayton paid back the schools and raised taxes on the wealthiest, despite conservatives’ warnings that he would scare away jobs. Instead, the opposite has occurred: Dayton added 172,000 new jobs in his first term alone, compared to Pawlenty’s meager gain of 6,200 jobs over both of his terms combined. Our reserves keep growing.

That’s why 24/7 Wall St. considers Minnesota the second best-run state in the U.S.

Gov. Dayton is expected to release his budget late next month.