ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Minnesota budget officials are estimating a surprise $876 million surplus for the rest of the state’s two-year budget, easing fears of another bruising political fight just months after partisan deadlock over how to close the last budget deficit led to a partial shutdown of state government.
Predictions at the Capitol had been pessimistic, with red-ink estimates ranging from $500 million to $1 billion. But budget officials said revenues came in $358 million higher than expected and spending was $205 million below earlier estimates.
The forecast wasn’t all sunny. It projected a deficit of $1.3 billion for fiscal years 2014-15. The forecast said most of the reduced spending was in Health and Human Services.
“There’s still 192,000 Minnesotans unemployed, so this is no time to be celebrating,” said Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton said the rare surplus is ‘terrific,’ but comes at the expense of schools, from whom the state borrowed money and property tax payers, who now pay more. He blames that on Republicans.
“Republican legislators’ devotion to protecting millionaires from their fair share of taxes comes at the expense of everyone else,” said Dayton.
The GOP majority said the Republicans’ focus on fiscal restraint has turned out to be the best strategy.
“What that demonstrates to us as a legislature is that living within your means works, but most importantly you have to keep at it,” said GOP Majority Leader Amy Koch.
The forecast will be updated again in February, when it will be used to guide budget talks.
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