Dan Sparks: Determining how to divide a surplus for next biennium

Published 5:06 pm Saturday, March 28, 2015

By Dan Sparks

State Senator, District 27

We have reached the midpoint of session, having completed work in policy committees, attention now turns to establishing the details of the next biennial budget.

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The Governor recently released his final budget recommendations last week, and the House and Senate have now announced their budget targets. These targets set the framework and speak to the priorities for each body’s budget, which will then be negotiated to set the state budget for the next two years.

Governor Dayton announced his budget priorities recently with 80 percent of the $1.89 billion surplus to be invested in Minnesota children, families and students. Significant investments in education were highlighted including fully paying for pre-k for all Minnesota four-year-olds and freezing tuition at state colleges for the next two years.

The Governor’s plan also includes tax credits for child care and working families and make long overdue investments in the state’s aging, under-funded transportation system.

On Tuesday, the House announced its budget priorities, in stark contrast to Governor Dayton’s. Instead, the House is proposing $2 billion in tax cuts. Another $100 million would be placed in the state’s budget reserves.  The plan also includes budget cuts and shortchanges underfunded priorities.

The Senate announced its budget priorities on Friday, and they look quite different from the other proposals which either dramatically increase spending or call to “give it all back.” Instead it takes on the difficult task of treading a path of fiscal responsibility while making key investments in shared priorities.

We have taken a balanced and measured approach that cuts taxes, targets new spending and prioritizes dedicating some additional revenue to the budget reserve. The Senate budget targets increase the budget reserve by $250 million to help the state improve and maintain a strong credit rating and guard against future instability.

The Senate Finance Committee and its budget divisions will invest $1.14 billion—nearly half of which will be dedicated to education. The Senate Tax Committee will provide $459.8 million to sound tax policy that provides not only tax relief—including property tax relief—but also eliminates previous accounting gimmicks that will further restore budgetary stability for Minnesota’s future.

As each legislative body announces how it wants to create the next biennium’s budget, it’s important to keep in mind that a lot will change before the Senate and House adjourn towards the end of May. Part of being a legislator is learning how to compromise, and finding a way to do what is truly important and necessary for Minnesotans.

If there are any issues important to you, your family or community that you would like to share, please feel free to contact my office. Hearing from my constituents helps me make the best decisions for the people of Southeast Minnesota.