With an additional $832 million available this year for Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers to work with thanks to a positive budget forecast, the DFL governor said Friday that he wants more than half that money to benefit the two ends of the learning spectrum.
"I propose that we invest our collective good fortune in our collective better future," Dayton said Friday, after state budget forecasters said a projected surplus had swelled to $1.9 billion from $1 billion just three months earlier.
To that end, Dayton said he'd seek an additional $444.2 million in spending to bolster several priorities. He's suggested an additional $238 million to ensure full statewide access to pre-kindergarten programs, rather than partial access as he initially proposed.
Dayton also backed an additional $127.5 million to freeze tuition for two more years at all public higher education institutions, plus $25 million more in state grants for college students.
In addition, Dayton said he'd propose setting aside $50 million to implement expected recommendations from a Child Protection Task Force working to bolster that system.
Dayton also flagged $3.7 million for the Minneapolis Park Board, which he'd initially proposed penalizing for what he called its delays to the process of approving a new light-rail route through southwest Minneapolis. On Friday, the Park Board and Metropolitan Council reached a deal meant to end those delays.
With that additional spending, about $388 million in additional surplus dollars would remain. Dayton said he would fully detail his revised budget proposal on March 9. The extra dollars could leave some room to negotiate with Republicans on their priorities for the surplus, which include tax relief, spending on road and bridge repairs, and additional money for nursing homes.