Minnesota’s budget surplus grows to $1.87B

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released its November forecast on Thursday, which showed the state’s surplus has grown to nearly $1.9 billion. About $665 million of that amount will be allocated to the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund and other payments required by law, leaving $1.2 billion for lawmakers to work with. The Governor and legislators will use this figure to begin to shape spending and tax cut priorities ahead of the 2016 legislative session. The budget forecast due in late February/early March will provide the final numbers that policymakers will work from next spring.

In remarks following MMB’s announcement, Gov. Dayton and House and Senate leaders offered their takes on how the surplus should be used. Republicans and Democrats both agreed that some of the money should be devoted to transportation, with Gov. Dayton stating that any plans for a gas tax increase are “dead.” Gov. Dayton also suggested that $100 million be spent on broadband infrastructure. In addition to investments in roads and bridges, Republican leaders expressed desire for tax cuts, while House Democrats mentioned several GMNP issues, including workforce housing and broadband, among their priorities.

As part of the November forecast, State Economist Laura Kalambokidis provided an economic outlook for the state going forward. She pointed to the tightening job market as a potential concern, noting that the statewide job vacancy rate is very high, at 3.7 percent, and that Greater Minnesota’s vacancy rate is even higher, at 4.6 percent.