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Forecasted Budget Surplus Will Greet 2024 Legislature

Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review Editor
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SAINT PAUL — With the December 6 release of a projected $2.4 billion state budget surplus for fiscal year 2024-2025, Minnesota labor leaders are calling for this one-time surplus to be invested in education, in infrastructure, and, in the words of Minnesota AFL-CIO president Bernie Burnham, “in a way that benefits working Minnesotans in every corner of our state.”

At this time last year, the projected budget surplus was $17.6  billion — so the new forecast is relatively small by comparison.

Still, a forecasted budget surplus — as opposed to a forecasted deficit — will set the tone for the 2024 session of the Minnesota legislature.

“After 2023’s historic pro-worker legislative session, Minnesota’s state budget remains stable and more than ready to cover the investments state leaders made earlier this year,” Burnham said. 

“While the overall balance sheet shows a modest budget surplus, it’s important for working people to know this is one-time money,” Burnham added. “That means lawmakers should be intentional about using the surplus and avoid the reckless tax giveaways to the rich that some are proposing.”

“The legislature made historic investments in working Minnesotans this year, but a single session cannot make up for two decades of underinvestment in schools, infrastructure, and vital public services,” Burnham said.

Education Minnesota president Denise Specht called on legislators to invest the surplus to address teacher shortages facing schools statewide.

“From kindergarten to campus, Minnesota’s educators are being burned-out covering for open jobs that can’t be filled at current compensation levels and working conditions,” said Specht. “We’re asking lawmakers to dedicate money toward making these jobs more attractive, with higher pay, reduced workloads, more affordable health insurance and significant pension reform. Minnesota’s students and educators deserve better than the current learning and working conditions at many sites.”

Education Minnesota locals across the state currently are at odds with local school districts in contract negotiations, facing what the union called “lowball offers” that fail to keep pace with inflation and rising health insurance costs.

The 2024 session of the legislature will not convene until February 12 but still must adjourn by statute by the first Monday after the third Saturday in May —May 20, 2024. In a year with a so-called “short session” like this coming year, passing a bonding bill to invest in state infrastructure needs typically is the chief focus of the legislative session.

The state’s building trades unions will be advocating for infrastructure investments from both the one-time budget surplus and from passing a bonding bill.

Joel Smith, president and business manager of LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota, commented: “Continued investments in infrastructure, along with a large, balanced local jobs and projects bill, will provide much-needed assistance to communities throughout the state. Investments in statewide infrastructure should include robust funding for roads and bridges, and transformational investments in wastewater, drinking water, stormwater infrastructure, repairs to prevent infiltration, and the replacement of all lead service lines in the state.”

An updated budget forecast will be released by Minnesota Management and Budget in February.