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Minnesotans weigh in on how they want the projected $17.6 billion surplus to be spent

Minnesotans sound off on where state’s $17.6B budget surplus should go
Minnesotans sound off on where state’s $17.6B budget surplus should go 02:14

ST. PAUL, Minn. – On Tuesday, state leaders announced a stunning $17.6-billion-dollar surplus, the biggest in Minnesota history.

State officials credit the surplus to strong tax revenues and lower-than-expected spending, as well as leftover surplus and unused pandemic aid money.

On Tuesday, WCCO spoke with Minnesotans from all across the state about how they hoped the money would be spent.

"You got to save some, and then I think you got to give some back," said Brent Lindahl from Duluth.

"I think a lot of it should go to road repair," said Luverne resident Dave Reese. "The roads in southwest Minnesota are terrible."

Maple Plain resident Tim Mix questioned the cause of the surplus.

"Why are we taxed so high? I'll take mine back," Mix said.

In the Twin Cities region, Minneapolis resident Kent Mortimer said he would like to see the funding go toward education and housing.

"Especially the cities, with rising housing costs, there's a lot of need for affordable housing in the cities," Mortimer said.

The forecasted surplus is higher than some states' annual budgets. WCCO political analyst Pat Kessler calls it a "mind boggling" figure.

"It is staggering. This is once-in-a-lifetime numbers we're looking at here," Kessler said.  


That economic forecast comes one month before the legislature is set to return to St. Paul to craft a multi-billion dollar state spending plan. The projected surplus will shape the conversations about how much to allocate towards schools, health care, public safety tax cuts and much more.  

Tawanna Black is the founder and CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion. The nonprofit works with employers and with bipartisan leaders to close racial wealth gaps.

"Gov. Walz, legislature, let's invest in a racial equity impact note that helps us know and be sure we know what laws and measures and actions are going to close those gaps, and then start investing in those critical services that we know Minnesotans need," Black said.

Walz again is calling for a rebate checks plan that would put some of that surplus back into Minnesotans' pockets. He wants one-time payments of $1,000 to individuals and $2,000 to families, though the idea got a lukewarm response from Republicans and Democrats last year

He will release his full budget proposal in late January, but on Tuesday floated reducing childcare costs, giving school funding a boost, and making some tax cuts on social security income. Lawmakers will discuss this and more next session.

Newly-elected House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said the colossal surplus is a sign that Minnesota is overtaxing its residents. She expressed an openness to rebate checks.

"Money that could be kept within Minnesota families to help with high grocery prices and with high energy bills - that money needs to go back to Minnesotans," Demuth said.

"There's a lot of things that this money could be spent on, and there's going to be a lot of pressure on the legislature to listen to what people want," Kessler said.

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