Minnesota lawmakers are being asked to keep working families in mind when they consider what to do with a $1.65 billion state budget surplus.
Public employee union officials are asking that the Legislature focus investment on economic security for the people who live in the state, and not to use it for tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations.
Eliot Seide, executive director of Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), notes that the last time Republicans were in charge, they proposed tax breaks to the wealthy, but he says every Minnesotan deserves a fair shot at a better future.
“Gov. (Mark) Dayton has moved Minnesota from deficit to surplus,” Seide points out. “We don’t want to go back to the days of chronic deficit.”
Spend on education and health care
AFSCME has come out in support of the governor’s $45.8 budget plan. Dayton proposes using the surplus to expand pre-kindergarten, increase funding for public universities and expand MinnesotaCare, a health care program that serves low-income residents.
The governor also is calling for an increase in some taxes and fees, including a hike in the gas tax, and new license and title surcharges.
The plan has been meeting with resistance from Republican lawmakers who say while they agree with some of the governor’s ideas, they’re balking at how much he wants to spend.
GOP leaders say they will start rolling out their specific budget proposals toward the end of April.
Seide says the surplus should be used for tax credits that benefit working families, and for child care.
“That does put money right in the pockets of working families who then are going to spend that money on necessities, and that’s going to make the economy grow a lot faster than tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations. They don’t need the money,” he states.
Seide says lawmakers should realize that what’s important to Minnesotans is fair taxes, decent wages, responsible investment in better transportation, clean water, a strong education system and healthy families.