Minnesotans Weigh In On What To Do With $1.9 Billion Budget Surplus



The Star Tribune released the results of a poll asking 800 Minnesotans their opinion on what should happen to the state’s forecasted $1.9 billion surplus – $1.2 billion after $700 million is diverted into a budget reserve fund as according to state law.

Minnesotans are divided on what their political leaders should do with $1.2 billion in surplus state dollars, with nearly equal support in a Star Tribune poll for refunding it to taxpayers, spending it or saving it.

Offered those three choices, 30 percent said it should be refunded, and the same amount said save it. Another 31 percent said spend it, with the greatest support for roads as the top spending priority, followed by public schools.  ~Read More~

Spending priorities varied from region to region, with the Twin Cities metro area, primarily Hennepin and Ramsey counties, giving the most support to spending most of the surplus.

The age group most likely to support saving the surplus was 18-34 year olds, and women were more likely than men to support spending the surplus.  Politically, most Republicans were closely split between saving it and refunding it, with Democrats more likely to support “spending the surplus on government programs and projects.”

State lawmakers, Governor Dayton and even university professors have also weighed in on what should be done with the surplus.  In a January 8, 2016 Minnpost.com article, University of Minnesota professors Mark Borello and Rosemarie Park argued for the Legislature to “invest our surplus in education ‘from cradle to career'” by  investing in early childhood education to “ensure that high-quality pre-kindergarten programs are available to every child in Minnesota,” as well as “investment in full-service community schools that can ensure the basic physical, mental and emotional health needs of all students,” and closing the racial achievement “and opportunity gaps that make it more likely for some Minnesotans to go to prison than to college – the ‘school-to-prison pipeline.‘”

While the professors are pushing to spend the surplus, many lawmakers have other ideas, including tax relief and/or tax cuts and refunding at least some of the surplus back to the citizens, as well as suggesting the state invest in Minnesota roads, too.  Representatives Deb Kiel (R-Crookston) and Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) recently said about the surplus:

“With a surplus of well over $1 billion, our focus must remain on the priorities of northwest Minnesota, and that includes substantial tax relief for families and fixing our local roads,” said District 1B State Rep. Deb Kiel (R-Crookston). “This surplus demonstrates the state has collected too much from hard-working taxpayers, and next session, state leaders can and should pass legislation that returns that money to you.”

“This surplus provides us with an excellent opportunity to grow Minnesota family budgets instead of Minnesota state government,” added Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau). “Our priorities for next session should be returning money to folks through middle-class tax relief, as well as passing a comprehensive transportation bill to improve roads and bridges.” ~Crookston Times, December 7, 2015

Governor Dayton and DFL legislators agree that the surplus should result in reducing property taxes, but Governor Dayton has also said that any tax reductions must also come with corresponding increases in education funding, particularly investment into early childhood education.  Dayton had also initially said that with the surplus his proposed gas tax would be “off the table,” but as Alpha News recently reported, “Governor Mark Dayton seems to be reconsidering.”

Taken from a sample of 800 registered voters from around Minnesota via landline and cellphone January 18-20, the poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.