Gov. Mark Dayton has unveiled how he wants to spend the state's $900 million budget surplus.
At a news conference Tuesday, the governor and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announced their supplemental budget proposal, which included proposed tax cuts, funding for better Internet and early education.
Dayton says the investments will provide more economic opportunities, help entrepreneurs and small businesses, and create more educational opportunities. Additionally, he says the budget will help reduce disparities for people of color in Minnesota.
Much of the focus for the remaining weeks of the legislative session will be on how to spend the budget surplus, but there's less money for lawmakers to argue over this year – the projected surplus is down from $1.2 billion to $900 million.
Reduce middle-class taxes
The governor's budget would bring tax cuts to the middle class, impacting more than 400,000 families.
The tax cuts would reduce childcare costs by expanding the number of people eligible to receive tax credits. Cuts would also benefit college students, teachers buying classroom supplies and homeowners.
Tax breaks won't be given to large businesses and "those at the very top," Dayton says.
Invest in education
The governor plans to invest in children, families and communities. He says voluntary pre-kindergarten programs would help close the opportunity gap.
The budget would put $25 million towards making early learning opportunities available to thousands more 4-year-olds.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, when it comes to states with early learning programs, Minnesota ranks last out of 41. Dayton says changing that ranking is a priority.
The proposal says more than $28 million would be invested in Minnesota's Child Care Assistance Program to help low-income families pay for child care.
And $2 million will go towards providing state employees with paid parental leave for six weeks.
Better broadband access is on the governor's list, and $100 million is set to help expand Internet access throughout the state.
According to the governor's fact sheet, that investment would bring Internet to more than 35,000 homes. Right now, 244,000 Minnesotans don't have high-speed Internet access.
He notes better Internet would support better jobs and advanced education.
Dayton's budget also puts money towards improving Minnesota's water supply, improving roads and bridges and creating more jobs.
The budget leaves about $200 million unspent in case there's an economic downturn. According to Dayton, economists project a national recession by 2018.
Hours after Dayton revealed his budget plans, he received a lot of support from fellow Democrats, and Republicans remained mostly quiet.
Republican Leader David Hann did release a critical statement on the governor's proposal.
Hanns addressed tax cuts and transportation funding saying they're "the two things that didn't get done in the 2015 budget."
He called Dayton's priorities "completely out of whack," noting the governor "only" budgeted $13 million for roads and "very little" for tax cuts.