Dayton to spend extra $866M from budget surplus on free pre-K care, tax cuts

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Gov. Mark Dayton has revealed an extra $866 million in state spending proposals over the next two years as a result of a higher-than-expected budget surplus.

At a news conference Tuesday, the governor laid out a supplementary budget in the wake of last month's budget forecast revealing an additional surplus of $832 million, bringing the total surplus to $1.9 billion.

Dayton says much of the additional investment should go toward education – including an extra $243 million (on top of $100 million already proposed) to fund free pre-kindergarten for every one of Minnesota's 47,000 4-year-olds.

A summary of his supplementary budget can be found here.

The plans also include almost $200 million worth of tax cuts, including $83 million in tax relief for low-and-middle income working families. Dayton says that will give 287,000 families an extra $138 per year on average.

The news of the budget surplus prompted calls from Minnesota Republicans for the governor to "give it back" to taxpayers through tax cuts, but Dayton stood by his guns during the announcement, citing the importance of investing for the future.

MPR reports that with an $183 million budget reserve, only $13 million is left unspent in Dayton's plan for the $1.9 billion projected surplus.

Key proposals from the supplementary budget

  • Free, full pre-K for every 4-year-old in Minnesota: $243 million.
  • Funding for American Indian education on a per-pupil basis: $10.4 million.
  • $252 million to freeze tuition at University of Minnesota and MnSCU campuses across the state, saving 300,000 students $290-$1,500 over two years, and expand the state grant program by $352 per student on average.
  • $25 million to attract and retain teachers in "hard to fill" teaching positions, bringing in an extra 400 teachers.
  • $83 million in tax relief for low and middle-income families, saving $138-per-year on average, and an extra $68 million in state welfare for low-income families.
  • $52 million to enforce new child protection strategies suggested by the Governor's Task Force for the Protection of Children.
  • An extra $10 million to create another 650 affordable housing units for workers across Minnesota.
  • Servicing debt from an $850 million bonding bill to pay for public works.
  • $500,000 for a MNsure task force that would review and recommend changes to the health care exchange.

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