By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What would you do if you suddenly had a whole lot of extra money? That is the situation the state of Minnesota finds itself in with a $1.3 billion surplus.

The argument over what to do with the surplus is expected to dominate the legislative session.

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Republicans want to give some of it back in the form of tax cuts. One proposal would eliminate all state taxes on social security benefits no matter the income of the recipient. Minnesota is one of only 13 states that taxes social security benefits.

Democratic House members want to spend half a billion dollars of the surplus on more affordable daycare spots and $25,000 one time scholarships for a year of pre-kindergarten.

But there is some division in Democratic ranks.

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Governor Tim Walz, who often reminds audiences he is a former teacher, wants to wait and see what the states revised supplemental budget outlook, expected later this month, looks like.

It is the powerful House Speaker who is championing the half a billion daycare and pre-k spending program. She made her case again on WCCO Sunday Morning.

“Knowing that we have $1.3 billion right now, the question is where can we make the most difference and you are only three once and the difference we make in a three-year-olds life in the year that they are three will carry with them for the rest of their life,” Hortman said.

Speaker Hortman is getting support for part of her plan from an unexpected source, Senate Republicans.

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While they are not supportive on the half a billion-dollar price tag, some Republican Senators say they like the idea of targeted pre-k scholarships as opposed to the universal pre-k program that former Governor Mark Dayton had proposed.

Esme Murphy