“Over the last few years we have righted the ship,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue Myron Frans on the forecasted $1.86 billion budget surplus. “Minnesota is a success story.”
Frans said he had written a note to himself to pause and smile after announcing the expected surplus had grown $832 million since the last forecast and expects to see surpluses at least through 2018.
Besides giving legislators more money to spend, the surplus also gives the state more borrowing capacity. Frans says Governor Mark Dayton could propose $850 million bonding bill. Bonding is used to pay for construction. Dayton has said the state’s infrastructure, including its roads and bridges are in bad need of repair and rebuilding.
Asked if taxpayers should get a refund, Dayton said he would rather invest the money in education and transportation which he says will lay a stronger economic foundation for the state.
“It doesn’t hold water to say this is because of a tax increase,” said Dayton to a question about whether he needed to raise taxes as he did on the state’s top earners.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt said the surplus means Minnesota should not raise the gas tax. Dayton says relying on continued surpluses is poor fiscal policy. He says his transportation plan needs to be funded for a decade and to do that it needs a dedicated revenue source.
Daudt claimed that the increase in the surplus was because voters had elected a majority of Republicans to the Minnesota House in November. Under questioning from Pioneer Press reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger Daudt walked back those comments to say “Minnesota” was responsible for the increased surplus.
Daudt said the surplus should be given back to taxpayers, but vacillated on how much should be. First he said a “majority” and then he said “what ever is left” after priorities were met, and then finally he agreed that it would be $900 million. “A majority?” asked Stassen-Berger. “Yes,” replied Daudt.
Video above: Governor Mark Dayton reacts to the surplus and answer reporter questions.
Video below: Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans does the numbers
DFL leaders react to surplus
MN GOP leaders react to surplus