The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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June 13, 2013

Pay schools back first, then maybe roads

I appreciated your column regarding Minnesota’s fiscal situation. The stress you placed on sound fiscal management was right on. Indeed, getting our state budget in good shape without the accounting maneuvers of the past decade was a top priority for me and DFLers in the Minnesota House this year. I am pleased to report we made good on that promise. We have a small projected budget surplus for the next four years.

I wanted to clarify one point that was raised in the editorial. Contrary to what was stated, I do not believe that we should start spending any additional money — either on new programs or on tax cuts — until we repay our schools in full. Indeed, as a result of action we took at the Legislature this year, the $300 million that you reference in the column will be immediately applied by law to accelerate repayment of the remaining school shift on July 1, 2013. Any future surplus revenues should also be used to repay the schools until repayment is complete.

Thereafter, if there are additional forecasted state surpluses, we should be extremely prudent in how we use those monies. In my conversation with the editorial board, I stated that we need to find a solution for making additional investments in our transportation infrastructure, including Highway 14, and that such a use could be a priority for future surpluses. But not until our schools are fully repaid.

Paul Thissen

Speaker, Minnesota House of Representatives

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