Supplemental budget looks at spending $700 million

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton greets lawmakers and guests after he delivered his State of the State address Wednesday, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

ST. PAUL — The response to Gov. Mark Dayton’s supplemental budget was as predictable of at least one more blast of snow in Minnesota in March.

It was praised by DFLers and their special interest group supporters for seeking more income equity and its focus on education.

It was panned by Republicans and their groups for a lack of tax cuts to return surplus money to taxpayers and businesses.

“Governor Dayton’s budget prioritizes many of the same goals the Senate DFL Caucus has this session. Particularly his dedication to bringing equity for workers and families, expanding education opportunities, and building Minnesota are shared priorities,” said Senate DFL Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook.

“We need to put some money back in Minnesotans’ pockets,” said GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt.

The DFL governor’s supplemental budget proposal would spend nearly $700 million in new and expanded government programs.

The state’s good financial fortunes have given lawmakers a second chance to spend more money than the state’s $42 billion two-year budget it is operating under. But Dayton also noted signs of a slipping economy and left $200 million unspent in case it takes a bad turn, adding to a cushion provided by a separate $1.6 billion budget reserve.

There were some good nuggets in Dayton’s supplemental budget for Greater Minnesota. It has $21.5 million for Local Government Aid and $100 million to better connect rural Minnesota with broadband Internet. The broadband proposal has bipartisan support.

“This is a shot in the arm for cities across the state. The governor is making a wise decision by choosing to invest some of the surplus money into programs like LGA that help keep our state healthy and poised for a bright future,” said Robert Broeder, LeSueur mayor and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

“This $21.5 million will allow cities to invest in the critical services and infrastructure that make our communities more livable for residents and better for businesses.”

He also fired a shot across the bow of the House Republican majority.

“Now that the governor and the Senate have come out in favor of an LGA increase, it’s time for House members to support Minnesota’s cities as well. We encourage our legislators in the House to address the concerns of their constituents and the communities they represent by supporting an LGA increase.”

The governor received praise from the DFL bastion that is labor, along with a shout out to House and Senate leaders to get on board with Dayton’s proposal.

“Governor Dayton should be commended for submitting a budget plan that builds on Minnesota’s economic success, invests in our future, and begins to address our state’s persistent racial and economic disparities,” said AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy.

“By proposing investments in E-12 education, job creation, transportation, and statewide infrastructure, Governor Dayton continues to build on his record of putting working people and their families ahead of big corporations and a wealthy few. We urge House and Senate leaders to also put working Minnesotans first when they release their budget plans.”

But Senate Minority Leader David Hann quickly said Dayton’s priorities are “out of whack.”

And Daudt said the state should devote more of the surplus to tax cuts rather than new spending. He suggested a tax credit for college tuition and exempting the Minnesota’s senior citizens from income taxes on Social Security earnings as good options.

The state’s major teacher’s union gave it high marks.

“We appreciate the governor’s approach for investing the surplus in Minnesota’s future – its families, children and educators. His choices will send more healthy children to preschool, more preschool children to kindergarten ready to learn and more kindergarteners to full-service community schools where they will be well supported,” said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht.

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