The legislature was on its Easter break last week, and I used the time away from the Capitol to discuss the big issues of the year with constituents in our district. Along with the bills I have championed this year, one of the most frequently discussed issues was the budget surplus and what to do with it. A number of plans have already been put forward by the House and the Governor, and the Senate has recently outlined our proposal as well.
Our targets deliver on a promise of taking a balanced, forward-looking approach to careful fiscal management by increasing the budget reserve, implementing thoughtful tax relief, paying back previous budget shifts, and carefully investing in priorities shared by all Minnesotans. The Senate DFL is continuing with the successful approach from the last two years that structurally balanced the state budget, resulted in a $2 billion surplus, and increased the state’s budget reserve and fiscal stability while investing in education and health care.
The Governor’s proposed budget makes many excellent investments, and the House proposal spends down the surplus by spending $2.3 billion in tax cut, which is more than the available $1.9 billion surplus. In order for the House to cut taxes at this level and still invest in their campaign promises, they propose a $1.1 billion cut from Health and Human Services. This would hurt our seniors and our most vulnerable Minnesotans. This is not the way to move Minnesota forward when we have a budget surplus.
Of course, discussion of the budget hasn’t slowed down my work on other state policy, especially my efforts to combat non-academic barriers to learning. To close the achievement gap, we need to make sure that all students come to school ready to learn. That is why all kids should have access to a good breakfast, because when you’re hungry, you can’t learn. I am also working to ensure that all children receive comprehensive eye exams so they can see well as they begin their schooling. Having a bigger picture of what we consider “school ready” will help every Minnesota student.
Helping families even before kids enter school is also important, which is why I have authored a bill to conform Minnesota’s child care tax credit to the federal rates, increasing the dependent care credit for thousands of Minnesota families. Any family with a child knows that childcare has become more and more expensive. It’s important to use some of our available surplus to ensure kids have a safe and stable environment while their parents are at work. This is one of Governor Dayton’s recommendations, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to give more relief to Minnesota families with young children.
I’m interested to hear what you think the Minnesota Legislature should do with the budget surplus. I recently held a set of listening sessions in our district, and was happy to have such a good discussion. I would love for you to join the conversation! Please reach out to me if you have ideas or concerns about anything on the Senate’s agenda.