Reps Gunther and Hamilton set priorities with budget surplus
ST PAUL, MINN. — State lawmakers can now begin setting a budget course for Minnesota over the next two years after state economists have unveiled their most recent fiscal forecast projection, and the $1.65 billion is actually higher than previously expected.
“We gained $250 million from the previous projection, so our economic forecast remains favorable,” Rep. Rod Hamilton (R- Mountain Lake) said. “Now we have to determine what to do with this surplus.”
Representative Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont) noted the total was higher than what was previously estimated.
“I’m delighted the economy is headed in the right direction and there’s another $250 million available,” Gunther said. “The down side to that is that Minnesotans created this growing surplus by paying too many taxes, so it’s time we look at ways to bring them some relief.”
Hamilton said reasons for the rising surplus number include greater than expected income and corporate tax collections. Things are also looking good for the next budget cycle as well, as current projections show a $2.12 billion surplus over that biennium, presenting lawmakers with a number of opportunities.
Larger growth in Minnesota’s tax revenues is the main reason for the surplus growth. State income tax projections are up by $274 million over November and corporate tax projections are up $69 million.
“I think it would be wise to pass a tax bill and provide tax relief for property owners and other hardworking Minnesotans,” Hamilton said. “We should also take a look at funding for health and human services and education, and of course transportation, which is always a priority.”
With $1.6 billion at its disposal, Gunther said the Legislature’s main focus should now be providing middle-class Minnesotans with long-overdue tax relief.
“Now is not the time to go on a wild spending spree,” Gunther cautioned. “As we set our budget, we should fund our key priorities, pay for the things that are most important to the state, and ensure that hardworking Minnesotans are allowed to keep more of their money.”