So Much for a Surplus; Governor Releases Budget

MInnesota Governor Mark Datyon

Dayton’s Proposal Spends Surplus, Calls for More Taxes and Fees

St. Paul, MN – Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal calls for a $4.3 billion increase in the state budget, entirely wiping out the surplus.

The $45.8 billion two-year proposal emphasizes health care, education, and transportation. The current $1.4 billion surplus evaporates, even with Dayton’s key health care proposal planning to spend relatively little in taxpayers’ money.

Dayton is proposing a public option for health care which would open up MinnesotaCare to more Minnesotans. The program is already in existence to aid low income families, and Dayon is planning for the expansion to cover any fallout if the unified Republican government in Washington D.C. repeals Obamacare. Dayton is planning for premiums to cover the costs of this expansion, aside from $12 million in start up costs.

“This public option could offer better benefits than many policies presently on commercial markets,” Dayton said reports MPR, “more options for people to keep their doctors and clinics and less expensive coverage than what is available today.”

Dayton also plans to expand a number of existing revenue streams. The plan calls for a continuation of a two percent state tax on health care providers that is scheduled to expire in December 2019. For transportation he’s targeting an increase in the gas tax and an increase in registration fees. Increased fees for hunting and fishing licenses are also on the table.

“One of the most troubling things in this budget are the tax increases,” Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt (R-31A) said, “One of the most regressive taxes that you can put on Minnesotans is a gas tax.”

Dayton said he is open to working with Republicans on different funding proposals, as long as they constitute what he termed “real funding.”

“Any time he can square off against me is to his political advantage and building his constituency,” Dayton said of Daudt in an interview with the Star Tribune in early January, “I’m not going to go quietly into the night.”

The Governor’s budget plan also calls for a two percent increase in spending on education. Education spending has increased every year of Dayton’s administration. This latest increase would cost $371 million. This does not include his proposal for expanded spending on pre-Kindergarten education, that would cost another $75 million.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-9) said his party shares many of the governor’s broad budgetary goals in areas such as health care and education. The difference comes in how the two parties approach the issues. Republicans have stated that the DFL’s plan relies to much on fee increases, and includes too much in new spending.

“We had a $2 billion tax increase four years ago,” Gazelka said, “We know have a surplus and yet the governor’s proposal is to increase spending 10 percent, 10 percent, and that’s just more than we think is appropriate.”

Editor’s note: This article previously reported the increase as $1.2 billion based on erroneous information from MPR. The correct increase is $4.3 billion as noted by Action 4 Liberty.

Anders Koskinen