Minnesota’s economy continues to improve – and with it the state budget – but unions say that is no reason to institute massive tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations.
As they did in December, unions reacted favorably to a rosy state budget forecast. But they also urge caution. The February forecast, issued Tuesday, projects a budget surplus increase from $1.4 billion to $1.65 billion.
“Minnesota’s continuing streak of budget surpluses shows that Governor Dayton’s leadership and working Minnesotans continue to keep our state in excellent fiscal health,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy.
“While other states are cutting their way out of massive deficits, Minnesota has an opportunity to invest in working people through education, infrastructure improvements, and job creation.
“Lawmakers should be careful; a surplus can quickly become a deficit if we return to the days of reckless tax cuts and fall into another recession.”
“Gov. Dayton has moved Minnesota from deficit to surplus, but there’s more work to be done,” cautions Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, said “Legislators must resist the urge to blow the surplus on tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations.
“All Minnesotans deserve a fair shot at a better future. Let’s focus on fair taxes, decent wages, and responsible investments in better transportation, smarter students, healthier families, safer communities, and cleaner water for everyone.
“The forecast is good news. It means state employees can continue to deliver the critical services that Minnesotans need without fear of layoffs.”
AFSCME supports Gov. Dayton’s $45.8 billion budget plan. He proposes using the surplus to expand prekindergarten, increase funding for public universities, and expand MinnesotaCare to serve more people.
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said educators welcome more investment to strengthen public schools.
“This surplus can give more public school educators the class sizes they need to connect with each student, up-to-date training and sufficient supports for their neediest kids and families,” Specht said. “We can also use it to recruit and retain more teachers who are qualified, caring and committed, ideally, for every Minnesota classroom. We can even ensure more kids come to kindergarten prepared to learn.
“Strong schools, clean water, compassionate health care, safe bridges and all the other good things provided by the public sector benefit everyone in Minnesota. This is not the time to give big corporations and millionaires a pass on paying their fair share in taxes, which just shifts to the rest of us the cost of paying for the quality of life we all enjoy in Minnesota.”
The Minnesota Legislature convened Jan. 3 with an agenda including the state budget and longstanding issues such as transportation and health care.