MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds of people showed up Tuesday at a State Capitol rally for increased human services funding.

It is one of many state programs neglected or cut during the recession.

Now, with a $2 billion budget surplus, State Republican party leaders are calling for $2 billion in tax relief.

A new television ad from the Minnesota Republican Party claims the surplus is big enough to give $350 to every man, woman and child in the state.

Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey is criticizing Democrats for passing a $2 billion tax hike two years ago, and keeping the money.

“That a $2 billion tax increase, unnecessary, creating a $2 billion surplus followed by another $3 billion surplus [that] should somehow be spent?” Downey said.

The Republican Party message is apparently at odds with the highest-ranking elected Republican. House Speaker Kurt Daudt is supporting some tax relief, but also spending programs — from education to nursing homes.

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin says the Republican call to return the entire surplus amounts to a loyalty test for Republican lawmakers.

“And that’s the question that Keith Downey is posing to Republicans today. He’s forcing them to choose: Are you going to choose your party over the interests of the people who elected you?” Martin said.

Minnesota lawmakers will lay out their own official budgets, including possible tax cuts, during the next two weeks.

Pat Kessler

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