Gov. Dayton's plan for spending Minnesota's budget surplus

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has released his plan for spending the state‘s projected $900 million budget surplus. He proposes spending $698 million on new programs, leaving $202 million on the table in case the economy continues to slow down.

The governor’s biggest spending item for working Minnesotans is actually a tax break. The governor proposes spending $117 million on increasing child care credits, working family credits and by copying federal tax relief passed by Congress last year.

“Our proposal would reduce taxes on middle income Minnesotans rather than providing more tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthiest citizens,” Gov. Dayton said.

Not enough

But Republicans are already criticizing the plan for not giving enough back to taxpayers

“We’re not opposed to income tax credits, but he’s talking about less than $100 million of tax relief – we’ve got a $900 million surplus,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie). “We’re not opposed to tax credits, but there a lot of other things that need to be done.”

Pre-K push

Early childhood education is still high on the governor’s priority list. His budget spends an additional $25 million to make voluntary pre-K available to 3,700 more 4-year-olds. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith calls it an incremental approach to build more support for universal pre-K in next year’s legislative session.

“We heard a lot last year how school districts and parents don’t want this,” Smith said. “I think what we’re going to see here is a lot schools and a lot of parents want this and I think that will help guide our decision making next year when we have the biennial budget.”

Rural broadband

The budget also adds $100 million in grants to expand broadband across the state.

State security hospitals a must

The governor says he’s willing to work with the legislature on all of these spending items. The one area where he draws the line is the state security hospitals. He says the state must absolutely spend money to increase staff and beds.

The big question

The question is, will any of this pass the legislature? Especially given that lawmakers have spent the first week battling over extending unemployment benefits to Iron Range workers.

“If they’re going to play that kind of game with everyone of these things, REAL ID and everything else that follows, it’s going to be a session  where we’ll accomplish nothing,” Gov. Dayton said.