Unions: Surplus more proof Minnesota is on right track

mnaflcioMinnesota’s projected $1.9 billion state budget surplus, announced today by Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans, is proof that progressive policies pushed by DFL lawmakers over the last two years have helped foster economic growth, the state’s unions said.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor federation, representing more than 300,000 union members, said the surplus is the result of reforms made by DFLers in 2013 and 2014.

“Nearly two years ago, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislators passed a budget that erased a long-term deficit while investing in jobs and education by asking the richest Minnesotans to pay their fair share in taxes,” Secretary-Treasurer Steve Hunter said. “Today, Minnesota’s state budget has a nearly $2 billion surplus and our economy is leading the nation.”

AFSCMECouncil5Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5, the state’s largest union of public employees, said the surplus “comes from more Minnesotans working than ever before and from more of them earning higher incomes than ever before.”

“It proves that fair taxes, decent wages, and wise investments in jobs and education have helped Minnesota create the 5th fastest growing economy in the nation,” he added.

But labor leaders warned against calls from some lawmakers to “blow the surplus on tax breaks for billionaires and big businesses,” Seide said.

Instead, lawmakers should pass a budget bill that makes needed investments in transportation, Seide said.

“We need a 10-year plan with new revenue to repair our crumbling roads and bridges and improve our transit system,” he said. “Using the budget surplus and other short-term solutions is a band-aid on a problem that gets more expensive with each year of delay.”

Dayton will present his budget proposal to the Legislature on March 9.

The budget forecast issued today increased the projected state surplus by $832 million. Dayton said he would propose dedicating about half of those funds – $444 million – on universal pre-kindergarten and a higher-education tuition freeze.

“I propose that we invest our collective good fortune in our collective better future, in education and transportation,” he said. “For ourselves, for our children, and for our grandchildren. And for the generations that will follow. Since we may not have the same opportunities in the years ahead, it’s even more important that we do it now.”

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