Budget surplus: Going, going…gone?

Just a week into the 2015 legislative session, the state’s $1 billion budget surplus is getting gobbled up.

Of course, it’s up to legislators and the governor what they decide to fund, and it’s quite likely some of these funding requests will be ignored by lawmakers or scaled back significantly by the end of session. Republican and DFL leaders are already dampening spending expectations.

But so far, here’s a list of who wants what and why. As you can see, $1 billion just doesn’t go very far.

  • Transportation: House Republicans want to use $200 million of the surplus to pay for road and bridge construction.
  • Nursing homes: Advocates will ask the Legislature for $200 million over two years to effectively increase reimbursements for their costs.
  • University of Minnesota: The school’s $1.3 billion budget request would include $127 million in new spending, with about half of that money going to a two-year tuition freeze.
  • Childcare tax credit expansion: Gov. Mark Dayton says his budget will include about $180 million in tax cuts for people who have children in daycare.
  • Disaster aid: Senate Democrats are pushing a $6.8 million disaster aid bill that would help areas affected by summer flooding. Republicans are likely to agree.

Some of the biggest asks haven’t been given a price tag yet. For instance, Senate DFLers want to make tuition at Minnesota’s two-year community college and technical schools free, and they want to expand early childhood education programming.

In the Republican-controlled House, leaders have pledged tax cuts, which would also likely mean a cut to the state’s surplus.