A recent economic report indicated that Minnesota is facing a $329 Million budget surplus. The common sense thing to do with a surplus is to return it back to taxpayers who were overcharged. But the Minnesota Legislature has prioritized spending instead of tax cuts. The House wants to spend $222 Million of general funds revenue, while returning only $107 Million in tax relief. In the other chamber, the Senate wants to provide $168 Million in relief while keeping $161 Million in the hands of government.
But this is only a portion of the narrative. There's $58 Million in excess reserves for the Vikings Stadium Fund, that will likely grow to about $100 Million by the end of next year. The MN House wants to use that money for new Veterans homes in Preston, Montevideo and Bemidji.
On top of all that, the House and Senate have released the details of their debt bills (aka bonding). Both chambers want to add $825 Million of debt on the state credit card. These bills include funding for roads, bridges and other key infrastructure. But then add millions of dollars of pork to include:
- $95.4 Million to the University of Minnesota
- $6.5 Million to put solar panels on the University of Mankato and other renovations
- $3 Million for the Minnesota Zoo Garden!
- $1 Million for Amateur sports center in Blaine
- $2.5 Million dollar bus garage in Rochester
- $2 Million dollar pedestrian/Bike bridgein the city of Rogers (pop. 11,000)
- $10 Million to the unelected Met Council to build parks and trails as they want
- $2.5 Million to build facilities for a park on Lake Waconia
- $2 Million for swimming pool in New Hope
- $3 Million Nature Sanctuary Visitor Center
- $4.4 Million White Bear Lake trail around the White Bear Lake
- $18 Million for Brooklyn Park to build a food shelf
- $5 Million for Duluth trails
- $12 Million for Minneapolis to redevelop a Harbor Terminal for the public
- $4.4 Million community center in Perham (pop. 3,000)
- $3 Million for a food shelf in Crookston (pop. 7,900)
- $5 Million St. Paul River Centre parking lot
- $5.5 Million Southeast Asian Language Job Training Facility
- $8.1 Million for Wabasha to expand the Eagle Center
- $5 Million dollar open air stage in Waite Park
- $18 Million to renovate one visitor building (#18) in Fort Snelling
- $26 Million for airports
- $18 Million to expand remote trails at some rural state parks
- $750,000 pedestrian bridge in Grand Rapids
- $6 Million St Paul MN Museum of American Art
- Tens of million in trails:
- $200k for a bluff lands trail by the Iowa border
- $2.5 Million for a Chester Woods trail outside Rochester
- $1.3 Million for a recreation area in Babbitt
- $2.5 Million for third part of a trail in La Crescent
Thanks to Washington County Watchdogs for digging into the details of the bill.
In totality, the fiscal record for the GOP when facing a $329 Million surplus is:
Keep in mind, all of the above spending figures are the GOP proposals. In the last week and a half of the session, Dayton will negotiate with the Legislature and the final numbers will likely be $400 - 600 Million higher.