The State of Minnesota is looking at a $1.3 billion budget surplus at the end of the fiscal year, and legislators are wondering what they can do with it.
A group of Republicans is, of course, saying “Give it back to the taxpayers.”
Now, that’s a fine idea. Who wouldn’t want to get back the money the state took from us that it doesn’t really need?
But there are needs, of course. We have recently mentioned one — sticking some much-needed money into the Department of Transportation budget so it can fund the rest of the Highway 14 expansion project, all the way from Nicollet to New Ulm. That is just one of the state’s many highway improvement or repair projects that aren’t getting done because the state says it doesn’t have the money.
There are cities that need to upgrade or replace water filtration or sewage treatment facilities — massively expensive projects that their local property taxpayers won’t be able to handle.
There are nursing home and personal health care workers whose wages are determined by the state, who, despite a couple of pay increases in the last couple of sessions, are still woefully behind. Couldn’t some of that surplus go to them?
Certainly, the state should always be looking at its tax structure to see where it can be more equitable, and to make sure it is not taking in more than it needs. We’d like to see some of the state’s surplus come back to the taxpayers in the way of refunds and reform. But let’s also take care of the state’s business, too.