Minnesota’s budget surplus nearly doubles to $1.86 billion

Get ready for the frenzy, Minnesota.

Lawmakers will have an extra $1.86 billion to spend as they craft the state’s two-year budget this session, and a lot of interest groups are already clamoring to take a bite out of that money.

State budget officials released the February forecast numbers Friday morning, showing estimates for the 2016-2017 biennium are up about $832 million from projections last November. The boost comes from a $616 million increase in projected revenue for the next two years and a $115 million drop in spending. The bottom line is also bolstered by an additional $107 million in savings for the current biennium, which gets tacked on to the next two-year budget.

Sunnier economic conditions led most Capitol watchers to believe the surplus would grow in the February forecast, but few predicted it would nearly double.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has already said he wants to use some extra surplus money to help finance an $850 million bonding bill this session. Lawmakers are also battling over how much to spend on road, bridge and transit improvements over the next few years.

Republicans have already proposed taking a bite out of the surplus to put into roads and bridges. And that doesn’t include the other spendy proposals that have been introduced this session: funding for pre-kindergarten education, broadband investments, long-term care initatives and free tuition at two-year college campuses, to name a few.

Budget officials and lawmakers will respond to the new numbers later Friday morning.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/27/2015 - 12:02 pm.

    Just a smidge more and all of Dayton’s $2 billion tax hike will be present and accounted for.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 02/27/2015 - 12:28 pm.

    Any chance we give the money back to the people who earned it? I know that is a radical idea, but just thinking out loud.

    • Submitted by Tim Walker on 02/27/2015 - 03:12 pm.

      Yes, Joe, I sure hope so!

      I’ll take my refund in the form of filled potholes, bridges made safe again, and money paid back to the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Fund (thanks for the reminder, Danie Watson).

      How do you want yours repaid?

  3. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 02/27/2015 - 01:37 pm.

    Warren Buffett on the myth of “earning” by oneself

    “My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest. Both my children and I won what I call the ovarian lottery. (For starters, the odds against my 1930 birth taking place in the U.S. were at least 30 to 1. My being male and white also removed huge obstacles that a majority of Americans then faced.) My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.”

    But what does he know about capitalism?

  4. Submitted by Michael Hess on 02/27/2015 - 01:52 pm.


    A day or so ago on these pages the Governor was quoted with regards to the roads question that he wouldn’t want to raise any more taxes than were required to do the job. Yet here we are, the $2B tax increase of a couple years ago thanks to a rebounding economy now nets us more like $4B increase. But instead of acknowledging too much tax was collected and considering adjusting rates back down, the Governor wants to spend it all, too, and in addition go for $6B in gas taxes.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/27/2015 - 03:43 pm.

      Not sure what your complaint is

      You do know that highway construction is not funded from general revenues, don’t you? And that general revenues are what is being discussed here?

      You also recall that cutting taxes in the 90s led to the chronic budget shortfalls of the aughts? That taxes could not be increased in those years because some fool of a national columnist mentioned Tim Pawlenty as a potential national leader, and it went to the Governor’s head?

      Adjusting tax rates based on revenue projections is one of the worst ideas to come up in this state lately (for the worst idea, see the part above about Tim Pawlenty being a national figure).

      • Submitted by Michael Hess on 02/27/2015 - 06:14 pm.


        I have not seen anywhere that it’s impossible to dedicate general fund revenue for some of our crumbling infrastructure. As for setting tax rates based on revenue projections, what do you think Dayton and the DFL did a couple years ago to get their $2.1B? Do you think they raised the rates and then waited to see what happened? They based that rate on the revenue projection of what would happen. As it turns our our economy is much stronger than thought, so it was overkill. the $2.1B would have been realized with no or little tax increase on rates. Time to course correct. Ignoring revenue proejctions when setting tax rates would actually be a much worse idea.

  5. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 02/27/2015 - 01:55 pm.

    give the $ back

    Give it back by investing in the people and infrastructure of the state, Together we are mighty!

  6. Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/27/2015 - 02:26 pm.

    It’s all bad news… Really…

    Just happened to see the budget forecast press conference and was impressed by how every Republican expressed such similar outrage and concern for the future of the state this (record) surplus represents.

    Speaker of the House, Kurt Daubt, as well as every sad-faced fellow Republican that spoke, was passionate and eloquent as can be.

    For a few minutes, anyway.

    And then, for the next 10 or 15 minutes, he sounded like a slightly over-amped tape recording of himself repeating the same handful of lines (bad, terrible, stupid, way out of touch, immediate tax cuts for hard working business owning job creators and Minnesotans that DO get it because they don’t live in Capitolville where senatorial palaces are built and crony commissioners get million dollar raises while taxes on hard working Minnesota families keep going up and up as DFL spending rages out of control, etc.) over and over again in answer to whatever questions (about a few specifics, maybe?) he was asked by the reporters in the room.

    In short, there was NO GOOD NEWS in today’s budget forecast. To the contrary: This projected surplus is the clearest sign yet that the governor and the DFL are on the wrong track and completely out of touch with Minnesota voters. Clearer than the job growth, low unemployment, higher than average median income red flags that have been popping up all over the place lately.

    So don’t be fooled! The state’s budget and economy are in terrible shape and if we don’t do what Republicans say we should to fix it right away we will ALL be sorry very soon.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 02/27/2015 - 02:54 pm.

      Yeah, Bill…

      it’s absolutely killing them that this state continues to be the jewel of the Midwest. They just can’t handle reality.

  7. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 02/27/2015 - 02:30 pm.

    Fix the roads!

    The other day I drove to Fairmont and back to the Twin Cities through a brisk northwest wind, gusting to 40 MPH, all on I-35 and I-90.

    On my way home after almost five hours on the road, I was trying to decide – which was more irritating – the buffeting by the wind or the thump-thump of the roads. The roads won hands-down.

    Today the winds are light, but the roads still suck.

  8. Submitted by Bill Lynch on 02/27/2015 - 03:59 pm.

    Y’all starting to tick me off!

    I sit in a state facing increasing debt, huge cuts to education and infrastructure, and a healthcare system that lags the rest of the country.

    Would welcome a government willing to make the difficult decisions on what it takes to get an economy moving forward and creating a vibrant and engaged culture.

    Instead, we in North Carolina are left with partisan hacks whose vision doesn’t extend beyond the next sound bite and who revel in juvenile discourse.

    Congrats, Minnesota.

  9. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 02/28/2015 - 10:13 am.


    Do not ‘give’ it back to the people other than in services. We have ‘been there, done that’ a while back in the form of State-written checks to individuals and it was then, and still will be, a wrong move.

  10. Submitted by joe smith on 02/28/2015 - 05:16 pm.

    So giving back money to the individuals who earned it and gave it to the state is wrong but having elected officials decide what services those same folks need is right. I know enough politicians both left and right that I’m not sure could balance a check book, figure out a spread sheet or begin to run a business- so no thanks on them spending my money on me. I’ll do that myself. Dennis, you must know other politicians than me- i gotta get to know your folks so I can build up the same trust.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/01/2015 - 06:11 pm.

      Differnt Dennis

      Hello Joe, Yes we do!
      No perfect answers, no silver bullets, “we the people in order to form a more perfect union” it may take some time, “But we have to keep the faith” and fight the good battles. There is an old Scottish saying imparted to me about 25-30 years ago from my good UK friend Mr. Erik McKaig of the clan McLain “Don’t let the SOB’s get the best ya”!
      If its right, its right, if its wrong its wrong, and we’ll do our best working out the compromise of the stuff in between.

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