What should be done with the state budget surplus?

“A new forecast released Friday shows Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature will have even more money to work with as they set the state budget for the next two years,” writes MPR News reporter Catharine Richert.

The forecast from Minnesota Management and Budget shows the state’s previously forecast $1 billion surplus for the next biennium has grown to $1.87 billion.

Today’s Question: What should be done with the state budget surplus?

  • Darkdruid

    $862 million “extra” money should go $250 million to roads, $250 million to education, $300 million to the rainy day fund/budget reserve, $62 million to elder care and other human services needs

  • PaulJ

    Find out how much the rainy day fund needs and then give the rest back. If more tax money is needed, it should be legislated.

  • whitedoggie44

    Mark Dayton grew up with a money tree in his back yard. He believes that people with wealth won some mythical lottery since he himself has never been forced to work a real job.

    The issue here is when you have all these programs on auto spend, what happens when the next recession hits? I am a high income earner and fully 50% of my compensation is performance based, stock equity, bonus, etc. when the income of the top 10% is hit, the impact to the state budget will be disaster with democrats screaming for still higher taxes on the “wealthy”

    It will take a relocation of one or more Fortune 500 companies out of Minnesota before the citizen realize the spending can’t be maintained. It has happened in other states and Minnesota, despite your delusional thoughts, is not special.

    Good luck MN, with Mr spendy as govenor, you will come to regret these decisions.

    • I trust you’ll be moving to North Dakota soon?

      • Dave M

        Just like all those businesses that threatened to move. But didn’t.

        • TaxSeason

          I work at a firm that works with high income, small business owners. We have seen some flight from MN – not Fortune 500 types, but definitely more wealth than I’ll see in my lifetime. Joke about it all you like. Belittle anyone who points it out, but it does happen. They move to places like Florida, where there’s no individual income tax or Arizona, where the maximum individual tax rate is 4.25%. Plus, they don’t have to put up with Minnesota winters.

          • Lets face facts, here. They are moving AT LEAST as much because of the climate as anything business related. The bean counters have it all figured out … on an amortization scheme that stretches 100 years. The bosses like that kind of thing, and the company spends millions of dollars justifying these ridiculous moves, only to say “it was best for the company.” They’re just afraid of a little cold weather.

          • Dave M

            Unemployment is low and there is job growth here. Your argument rings hollow. If taxes had anything to do with anything, then companies and people would be leaving in droves.

            So why aren’t they?

        • whitedoggie44

          AT&T, Exxon and JC Penny all relocated from NYC due to high taxes. Toyota just moved 5000 jobs from CA to TX. It does occur when the economics drive the decision.

          • Exactly my points (see above). Republicans consider themselves realists, but they subscribe to a morally repugnant view of life and the world, placing money before people. The whole reason we even HAVE government is for PEOPLE to rise to their potential, not for the rich to get richer by manipulating the system. We forget that sometimes, but the evidence is everywhere.

          • Gordon near Two Harbors

            When I see Minnesota’s population decrease, schools and health-care system fall apart, and our long, over-all life expectancy begin to fall–then I might consider your views.

            Most traditional Minnesota families have lived here for generations, are hardy, and love this state and all it has to offer.
            Also, only a complete idiot would live here if they hated winter.

            I travel a fair amount, and many of the places you advocate are downright dumps.

      • whitedoggie44

        I was relocated to Texas in 2010, but still have some family in MN which is where I have concern, when spending obligations eventually exceed revenues. Democrats never learn the good times do not last. Stay warm

        • That may be true, but Democrats are naturally optimistic on account of the fact that their world revolves around people, not money. Argue that point until the cows come home, and it still comes out the same. Democrats want projects funded by the government so people will have jobs. Republicans will consider funding something ONLY if they see it impacting their bottom line. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong, but any two-penny philosopher would be hard pressed NOT to see the modern day republican as having a morally repugnant view of life and the world.

          • whitedoggie44

            Your problem, like all democrats is you do not understand or care about the math? There is not enough income to achieve all your liberal objectives. The reason democrats were hammered in the last election is that obama and the looney left are now going after middle income taxpayers to achieve their liberal utopia. The only realism the left admits to is what it sees as a U.S. beset, forever, by poverty, economic injustice, and unmet “needs”. Work hard, be happy, piss off a democrat.

          • Dave M

            No, the reason democrats were hammered is because democrats didn’t vote. When more people vote, democrats win.

            Also too, democrats swept statewide races in Minnesota. And held the senate. You might have noticed that.

            There goes your whole premise.

          • whitedoggie44

            Agreed, when stupid people vote, democrats win.

          • Careful, your canine brain is starting to show.

          • Your logic defies logic. Your entire world view is based on a platform which dictates that industry should be given special exemptions in order to maximize their profits. If, as Citizens United has declared, corporations are to enjoy the same rights as individuals, they should be held accountable when they go beyond the law in order to achieve their profit-taking ventures overseas. The point being that there is plenty of income to do the things that need doing, after all, any society needs to be maintained, at the very least, and maintenance costs money. There is PLENTY of money, it’s just a matter of how it is distributed. Your corporate mentality has you in a box, one you’ll never get out of because of how you chose to define the world in which you live. I hope you enjoy your life being a prisoner of the monied class. May you find contentment.

          • whitedoggie44

            You, like most of the looney left, can’t provide facts behind you ranting and ravings just moronic philosophy. The fact is their is not enough income to meet all your demands. I learned how to add and subtract. As Margaret Thatcher stated, “socialism is great, until you run out of other people’s money”. Enjoy poverty.

          • Dave M

            Yeah, I was waiting for somebody to dust off that chestnut.

        • Dave M

          “Democrats never learn the good times do not last.”

          Is that why Dayton wants to build the rainy-day funds?

  • reggie

    In a reasonable world, expenses for roads and bridges are covered by relevant taxes — auto license taxes, use taxes, and a fuel tax. We have not forced these taxes to keep pace with the cost of building and maintaining the infrastructure. Now we have an opportunity to do two useful things without inflicting much tax pain. We can raise the fuel tax to a level that will cover more (not all by any means) of the ongoing infrastructure costs, and we can use the budget surplus as a substantial downpayment on the long-neglect maintenance and repairs to roads and bridges.

    The budget surplus is based on taxes the market has adjusted to paying. At current levels of taxation, we’re apparently still growing our economy and getting people back to work. Let’s look to the long term, instead of knee-jerk babbling about returning any of this surplus to tax payers. Once we’ve caught up on the infrastructure backlog, we can lower taxes.

    • In general I agree with you, but two things should be kept under consideration. First, I could use a bonus. I work for almost nothing at my job and would enjoy a bit of a break from the tedium of my debt and day-to-day existence. Second, Dayton blundered when he tried to raise the pay of his top cabinet members. It’s going to be a mega talking point during the next election. Dayton doesn’t have to worry about his future, but the DFL has to worry about its future. Let us have rebates NOW because once the repoobs get back in power, it will be back to survival of the fittest, austerity measures to the max, fees up the ying yang and our economic security on the fast track to oblivion. Sorry, but I ran out of optimism during boosh-chainy.

      • Fletch

        “You’re resentful that there are people who make more money than you do. That’s OK” ~ Rex Hamann

  • Gus

    Having the ability to transfer knowledge in vital in a knowledge based economy. The cheapest and most effective way to transfer knowledge is high speed internet. Not broadband speed but true Giga Fiber high speed internet. The type of high speed that you will find in Kansas City and Provo. Having the true high speed internet integrated into the road system will provide cheaper and better access for cable companies and having more companies compete for the customers dollar. Also, I believe Greater Minnesota will see an increase in businesses investment if high speed internet is at a competitive price. Business may relocate here do to Giga Fiber internet speed. Greater Minnesota companies will have a competitive advantage with other companies in the country. Business Sectors such as accounting, 3-D Printing, high tech manufacturing, home services, farming, medical and other support industry will become better equipped for the future. Integrating the road infrastructure with Giga Fiber internet can and should be done in selective towns.

    • Fletch

      Provo, Spain?

      • Gordon near Two Harbors

        Provo, Utah.

  • Gary F

    More cradle to grave government programs. Get more people dependent on the government so that when hard times hit again even the decrease in their yearly increase will be portrayed by the media as drastic cuts.

    • Yay!! Super ideas!!!! I’m 100% behind that!!! Let’s get everyone sucking off the government teat!!! But let’s start with getting the state back to the point it was at before the damage inflicted upon us by the Papalenty admin. You anti-government ranters are all alike because you see the world in black and white. If it’s good for YOU, it OUGHT to be good for the rest of us. Selfishness to the ENTH degree.

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    I’d repair as much of the decaying road and bridge infrastructure around the state as I could, and also expand the coverage of fiber-optic cable. After completely revamping the state’s higher ed (eliminating the numerous junk degree programs out there, consolidating some programs/expanding others), I would increase the need-based grants to Minnesota residents who seek higher ed. I would also invest in research and in-the-field efforts to reduce or eradicate the increasing numbers of invasive species that threaten the state’s woodlands, prairies, and waters.

    The rest would be invested in a rainy day fund or go into targeted tax relief.

  • John Dilligaf

    Roads and bridges. Not trains. Not bike paths. Roads. And. Bridges.

    • bearfilm

      If they were to increase funding to public transit systems it might help to alleviate some congestion on the roadways…

  • John Dilligaf

    What’s up with having to sign in to upvote somebody’s opinion, but not to post a comment?

  • AndyBriebart

    Why not create more successful programs like Mn Sure!

    While we are at it, why don’t we reward all the great work the MN Sure people are doing by giving them raises!

  • MotherTheresa

    1. Fix Roads and Bridges 2. Freeze tuition 3.Improve Housing Conditions for Elderly and Homeless 4.Provide All day Preschool for all Human Families that request it no matter what your income maybe. 5.Save the rest……Let’s face it fokes We would love a rebate But please remember Minnesota was in debt shortly after. I WANT MY TAXES TO GO TO THOSE WHO NEED HELP! Keep up the good work Governor Dayton!! I do not have to live in fear like the rest of Minnesota.

  • John Jameson

    Improve the non-reflective white paint on the interstates as it is impossible to see the lanes.

  • NoloKerry

    Lets give half the surplus to our own MN National Guard vets so they are treated with the respect they deserve. Less than 10% of people would ever consider a job as a police officer or as our military combat personnel. Most people sit on their butts and complain for something that they themselves have no guts to do for their country. What we should be concerned with is our federal leaders from Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry when they tell us, lying blatantly per our own top defense leaders statements (although Iran is in fact_as we speak, building intercontinental ballistic missiles) that Iran isn’t planning on building nuke bombs and isn’t intent on wiping out our number one ally Israel and then us? Seriously, most Minnesotans have no clue. That’s why they voted for Progressives like Dayton and Obama and Frankin, and you all want to hand over your own hard earned tax money to their back room crony deals? How’s that MN Sure working out? Is that solvent? Dems of MN voted for more taxes and that is how we have the surplus and they want to spend it vs. giving our money back; reduce our property taxes is a start.,,and stop spending our road tax dollars on bike paths and dog parks and useless money for the unregulated Met Council’s authoritarian acts, making costly acts without citizen voting.
    Informed Americans understand that when our own government lies to us, we need to vote their career out and demand consequences and more accountability.

    • Gordon near Two Harbors

      Take a deep breath , dude, and quit watching FOX news! My guess is that you were not born in Minnesota and have been indoctrinated by some sort of foreign, conservative ideology.

      • John Dilligaf

        You really like to pretend you have some superior knowledge or moral ground, don’t you? Anyone with an opposing thought must be belittled and made to seem as though they’re foaming at the mouth. That doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

        • Gordon near Two Harbors

          The original poster spewed a bunch of politically biased BS and chicken-little hysteria that is almost certainly a tiny, minority viewpoint in this state. But you are right–my overly edgy, tongue-in-cheek response added nothing to the discussion.

  • Art Rolnick

    Fully fund early learning scholarships for our most vulnerable children.

  • Alex

    As with most things in the public space, I believe it should get split and spent a variety of ways. Large chunks should go to both rebuilding/bolstering the State’s rainy day fund and to refurbishing Minnesotans aging public infrastructure including roads, schools, and one time capitol upgrades aimed at repairing/improving buildings and structures with an eye on long term cost reductions/benefits (ex. LED highway lights for reduced maitinence, energy consumption, and increased illumination). Since it is one time money beyond the normal operating costs of the state, it shouldn’t be rolled into existing programs unless there is a present deficit (ex. snow clearing budgets of the state and local municipalities for this and last year).
    Another large chunk should go to pay down present MN debt from past improvement projects (past bonding bills, why carry debt if we can now pay it off?)

    Increase the emergency declaration fund for future storm related damages from rain, flooding, tornadoes, fire, etc.

    Pay for finishing the water pipeline project for SW MN communities, they need the help.

    Put a good chunk away to deal with both Asian Carp in our rivers and the repercussions of them.

    Then a myriad of small pork will get a little of the pie and every corner of the state should hopefully benefit a little from our collective prosperity.

    After all that, possibly a refund of some of the money ( .5%-1.5% of the total or something) to those with kids, as they are raising and funding the future funders of our state, as a thank you for their continuing work.

    • These are all awesome ideas. But guess what? In the last 30 years the “center” of our national political debate has steered so far right that we forget that once upon a time we relied upon taxes for exactly the same things you’re bringing up. The Middle Class could use a break right now, give the surplus back as a rebate. We need to maintain/sustain our society’s infrastructure, just remember the 2007 bridge collapse. Let’s start pushing back! We need to reclaim our birthright. The resources of the state and country belong to us all. The wealthy relied upon the many advantages provided here in order to gain their wealth. They should own up to the privilege of being the “privileged” class and ante up, much more so than they are doing now. They need to be responsible citizens and we need to pressure them to do so. We need to continue to stimulate the economy here, and that means giving the Middle Class a break. Taxes on the wealthy are not going to hurt anyone, including them. We need to take off our blinders and quit playing taxation routlette. They have the $$, they have all they could ever need, they should be paying higher taxes. Period. We’re being far too timid in the face of the conservative rhetoric and the absurd politics of austerity.

      • Russel B. Long

        Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree!

        • That’s fine if we’re a nation of lone wolves. But the nation wasn’t created so that we could be a group of individuals. Rebelling against the taxes one is expected to pay is understandable in that regard, because it’s a natural expression of our individual selves. But unless our collective selves hold sway and we acknowledge (actively) our collective debt to one another (in the form of paying our taxes), we’ll be forsaking our duty as members of the nation called the United States of America. Seems to me that the vast majority of wealthy individuals in this country subscribe by the lone wolf theory.

          • Russel B. Long

            What I was pointing out is that YOU, Rex Hamann, seem to have the attitude that the ‘wealthy’ should pay tax, not you. It seems you think that it should always be somebody who has more money than you, that we’re NOT in this together. If we’re truly in this together, we ALL need to pay taxes. If you want to raise taxes they should be raised on everyone.

            Also, the nation hasn’t moved to the right. Go back and listen to any JFK speech, and see how far to the right he would seem today.

          • The nation has moved so far to the right, Russell B. Long, that it’s almost impossible to know what real left-wing politics looks like. You know that and you’re only baiting me, and I resent that. The left has spent so much political capital capitulating to the drivel spewed by reagan and his right wing renegades that it’s been climbing out of its own hole for the past two decades. The right has co-opted American politics. There hasn’t been a balanced (i.e., functional) system here since the early 80s. Clinton was an austerity man, and an embarrassment to the left.

            And on your other point, you were reading things into my message that weren’t there. The ones who have more money should pay more taxes. Period. If I had more money, I’d be happy to pay more taxes. I’ve always been a team player and prefer to pay my way whenever possible. Let the burden fall where the burden is lightest. That’s my point. Next time please don’t assume what you THINK I’m saying. In this case you couldn’t have been more wrong. And that does nothing to foster constructive dialogue, assuming that’s what you’re interested in.

  • Pearly

    Q. when is enough, enough
    A. Never

  • JQP

    1) energy conservation – homes and business – using less results in better competitive position for MN business.

    2) new energy generation and distribution. more solar/wind/geothermal and smart-grid to move available energy around efficiently

    3) expand cogeneration and storage – homes and businesses generating even 10% of their annual energy needs reduce demand on powerplants.. that can pass lower costs onto heavy power users ( manufacturing, industry, etc. )

    4) expanded general research funding at MN universities and colleges. post -grad scholarships to get real problems solved.

  • Jax

    Republicans talk of operating government as a business. So here we have the formula. Hold revenues (tax rates) at current levels. Build reserves (rain day fund) for hard times in the future. Invest in infrastructure that grows revenues in the future. Taper outlays (spending) for enhanced margins.

    • This is a very rational argument. But it also fails to acknowledge how far to the right the poltical center in this country has shifted since reagan. The solution you propose is in line with austerity-based government. Starve out the lower class, punish the middle class and prevent them from expanding their worth (to the extent they might be able to, given the advantages the wealthy have had), and minimize the burden on the wealthy. If you had proposed this solution 30 years ago you’d have been branded a reaganite! (and I would have had pity on your soul…)

      • Jax

        I have caused confusion with my statement. Republicans are already screaming that Minnesotans need tax relief (code for their wealthy friends want to be taxed less). I don’t agree with their fiscal management. This state faced a 3 billion shortfall with a republican governor in control. Now we have a democrat governor and the books are in the black. There is no political center and we need something to soften the extreme right which starts with the tea party. Notice that the republicans and tea party’rs were filibustering the DHS funding within the right wing. The democrats afforded the luxury of watching them make fools out of their caucus.

  • lindblomeagles

    I’m a man that always looks back first before leaping forward. I seem to recall Governors Ventura and Pawlenty lauding tax rebates during budget surplus years, but being woefully unable to come up with solutions during budget deficits. Moreover, the Great Recession started 6 years ago, which really isn’t a long time ago, and the State of Minnesota pulled itself out of the red 2 years ago. The solution to me is fairly simple: set the money aside in a savings account in the event things turn sour again.

  • Jim G

    Spend it… where it will have the most positive impact on the greatest number of lives as possible. During the Great Recession we cut government services and it can be quantified. We have children being beaten to death by step-parents after repeated abuse reports. Spend it on Social Service interventions that save lives. We have the biggest educational achievement gap the the country. Spend it on children caught in poverty, give them pre-school advantages the rich have always had providing for their own children. We cut the funds that nursing homes get. Spend it on our elderly in long term care facilities. We cut funding for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State College system and allowed the tuition hikes to strip away college opportunities for our struggling middle-class kids. Spend it supporting our higher education colleges and universities ensuring tuition freezes this biennium. Spend… spend … spend… make hay while the sun shines… for as all native Minnesotans know, the scarcity of economic winter will surely follow this fair forecast.

  • Rusty Hooks

    Since it taxed revenue and taxes are paid by the people and the people have paid too much, is it really a question of what should be done with money taken from those people? One thing that is certain; left to our gov’t it will not be returned, but used for what someone else calls “good”. The only time returning it happens seems there is a Republican in the Gov’s seat. If it can’t be returned, save it and lower taxes next session.