ST. PAUL - State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said he saw positives and negatives with the recent news that Minnesota is projected to have a $1.871 billion state budget surplus for the 2016-17 budget cycle.
“Basically, hardworking Minnesotans have been overcharged nearly $2 billion by their state government,” Torkelson said. “The good news is we are not spending more than we are collecting. The bad news is there are going to be many Democrats who want to use this as an excuse to increase spending just one year after we crafted our state budget.”
Higher than expected revenues ($42.718 billion, which is a $90 million increase over end of session estimates) combined with lower than expected state spending ($41.656 billion, or $249 million lower than previous projections) led to the surplus estimate.
Torkelson said lawmakers will not be required to distribute all of the $1.871 billion windfall projection before session ends in May. According to state law, roughly one-third of that projection - $594 million – will be sent to Minnesota's budget reserves. This means Minnesota's overall reserve level increases to nearly $1.597 billion. Subtract some state payments that are also required by law, and Torkelson said the projected surplus allocation is closer to $1.2 billion.
Torkelson said lawmakers should not view this news as a reason to go on a spending spree, as any new government spending added this year only adds to our state's future financial obligations.
“Next session, the Legislature should enact policies providing tax relief for those who helped create this budget surplus," Torkelson said. "Our shortened 2016 session will likely focus on long-term road and bridge funding proposals and a bonding bill, but tax relief should also be near the very top of our legislative to-do list."