Dec 6, 2018 | By: Josh Peterson

Dayton: Budgets Went From Shambles To Surpluses

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says the state’s projected $1.5 billion budget surplus contrasts with the “shambles” he faced when he took office nearly eight years ago.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, the retiring Democrat recalled that he faced a $6.2 billion budget deficit and that the state had virtually no financial reserves. But he says the state will now have $2 billion in reserves to guard against future downturns.

Dayton says the main reason for the turnaround is that Minnesota employers have added over 318,000 jobs in the past eight years, and unemployment dropped from 6.9 percent back then to 2.8 percent today.

But Dayton says there are still too many people across Minnesota who aren’t sharing in that prosperity, including disproportionate numbers of farmers, minorities and recent immigrants.

Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz says the projected $1.5 billion budget surplus shows a legacy of fiscal responsibility under outgoing Gov. Mark Dayton.

Walz told reporters Thursday he credits fellow Democrat Dayton for the financial stability that has resulted in several successive surpluses during his tenure.

Walz gave few specifics about what he plans to do in terms of new spending or changing tax laws. He says his priorities will be education, health care and support for local communities.

Incoming House Speaker Melissa Hortman struck a cautious note, saying there is significant uncertainty in the forecast. She did not commit herself to increased spending, but said much of the money will be available only for one-time spending because growth is expected to slow in future years.

Republican legislative leaders say there is no need to raise taxes with Minnesota looking at a projected $1.5 billion surplus for the next two-year budget period.

GOP officials are taking credit for the projected surplus forecast Thursday by Minnesota Management and Budget. Republicans say they will consider more tax relief in light of the projected surplus.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says the state does not need to increase taxes to fund Minnesotan’s priorities in 2019. Gazelka says, “we should do more to make sure families can keep their hard-earned money.”

House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt says the surplus “shows that the Republican approach of lowering taxes and restraining runaway spending works.”

Democrats will take over the Minnesota House when the session begins in January. Republicans will maintain their slim majority in the Senate, while Tim Walz will succeed fellow Democrat Mark Dayton as governor.

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