Senate DFL wants surplus used for schools, reserves

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk announced DFL budget targets that emphasize education spending and increases reserves. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Democrats in the Minnesota Senate released a budget outline Friday that would spend nearly $43 billion over the next two years and provide more than $200 million in tax cuts.

They described their proposal as charting the middle ground between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and House Republicans. But most of the numbers track closer to Dayton.

With a projected $1.9 billion surplus to work with, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said $555 million would be spent on public schools, colleges and universities.

Bakk said a big difference in the Senate plan is that it puts $250 million into the state’s rainy day account.

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“Everyone would like to spend more money,” Bakk said. “Everybody would like to have a tax cut. But really the state budget is critically important to the delivery of all the services that our state and local governments provide, and making sure that stability is there going forward is just really, really critical.”

The Senate DFL target number for tax relief is similar to the governor’s but far smaller House Republicans, who are proposing $2 billion in unspecified cuts.

Bakk said more restraint is needed to avoid repeating fiscal mistakes of the past.

The House GOP budget outline, unveiled earlier this week, is about $3 billion smaller than the plan Gov. Dayton released in January and updated last week.

Senate Republicans quickly criticized the DFL targets.

Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said that Democrats are refusing to eliminate wasteful spending. Hann also took issue with the DFL’s transportation funding proposal.

“Their continued insistence on raising the gas tax when the state is already sitting on a pile of extra money is simply disrespectful to hardworking taxpayers,” Hann said. “Like Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and the Senate Democrats have forgotten who the budget surplus actually belongs to: the people of Minnesota.”