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Who gets credit for state surplus?

December 13, 2011
The Journal

Since the state financial forecast a week ago, several state politicians and government leaders have been patting themselves on the back.

Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Scheck quotes House Speaker Kurt Zellers, for instance:

"Now we can have some legitimate proof to say here's what happens when you reform government," Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said. "You can save some costs. You can reduce some of the burden on the private sector, but you can also reform the way government works. That's how we're going to lead the recovery."

State forecasters disagree. It's not the changes in the law, but changes in accounting practices, more money from the federal government than expected, and fewer people signing up for state subsidized health insurance that is pushing the surplus, they say.

And let us not forget the billions of dollars in IOUs that the state gave school districts instead of their state funding payments the past couple of years. Nor should we forget the millions in Local Government Aid pulled back from cities, which led to increases in property taxes.

Finally, this surplus is not a surplus yet, just a projected surplus based on what might happen over the next couple of years. The money is not in the bank, just a twinkle in the state forecasters' eyes. Politicans should not be too quick to grab the credit.



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