Education initiatives and home health workers are the biggest winners in a $283 million spending package finalized by Minnesota Democratic House and Senate leaders.
DFL budget negotiators are scrambling to finish a new budget to account for the last of the $1.2 billion budget surplus before Monday's mandatory adjournment.
Democrats want to set aside $75 million to be spread around all levels of education, from pre-kindergarten through college.
Health and Human Services would get nearly $104 million, with a large share of that will go to raises for home health care workers. The raise for home health workers has overwhelming bipartisan support.
“This is a budget that invests in bread-and-butter priorities important to Minnesotans,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal. “We can continue to grow our economy by focusing on priorities that will expand middle class opportunity, create more jobs, and improve the quality of education for our children.”
The new budget measure would leave the state with a $604 million projected surplus for 2016-17. Democrats have been wrestling for months with how to carefully give out meaningful tax breaks and targeted new spending without blowing a giant hole in the budget in coming years.
“Minnesota is on sound financial footing for the first time in years, and this fiscally responsible budget package will keep us moving in the right direction,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul. “We have an opportunity to make smart investments in schools, roads, and economic development while at the same time keeping our budget in the black going into the next cycle.”
Republicans have criticized Democrats for spending too much and not giving out enough tax relief. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said all of these initiatives are worthy of funding, but he is leery about spending too much and not leaving enough in the budget reserve.
Legislators are also earmarking $200 million to pay for statewide construction projects.
Legislative leaders are finalizing about $100 million in tax relief, with much of it going in the form of direct property tax relief for homeowners, renters and farmers.
The new tax measure will bring total tax relief for the session to around $550 million dollars, providing at least some relief to a large swath of Minnesotans.