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Winter Storm Avery takes lives, puts the brakes on commutes across the Northeast. Also on our Friday rundown: A first-of-its-kind report calls for policies to ease transitions of young people living in foster care. And "got gratitude" this holiday season? It could benefit your health.

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AFSCME: Don't Blow the Surplus

Minnesota has a budget surplus, and what should be done with that money is under the microscope. (
Minnesota has a budget surplus, and what should be done with that money is under the microscope. (
March 6, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota lawmakers are being asked to keep working families in mind when they consider what to do with a $1.65 billion state budget surplus.

Public employee union officials are asking that the Legislature focus investment on economic security for the people who live in the state, and not to use it for tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations.

Eliot Seide, executive director of Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), notes that the last time Republicans were in charge, they proposed tax breaks to the wealthy, but he says every Minnesotan deserves a fair shot at a better future.

"Gov. (Mark) Dayton has moved Minnesota from deficit to surplus,” Seide points out. “We don't want to go back to the days of chronic deficit."

AFSCME has come out in support of the governor's $45.8 budget plan. Dayton proposes using the surplus to expand pre-kindergarten, increase funding for public universities and expand MinnesotaCare, a health care program that serves low-income residents.

The governor also is calling for an increase in some taxes and fees, including a hike in the gas tax, and new license and title surcharges.

The plan has been meeting with resistance from Republican lawmakers who say while they agree with some of the governor's ideas, they're balking at how much he wants to spend.

GOP leaders say they will start rolling out their specific budget proposals toward the end of April.

Seide says the surplus should be used for tax credits that benefit working families, and for child care.

"That does put money right in the pockets of working families who then are going to spend that money on necessities, and that's going to make the economy grow a lot faster than tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations. They don't need the money," he states.

Seide says lawmakers should realize that what's important to Minnesotans is fair taxes, decent wages, responsible investment in better transportation, clean water, a strong education system and healthy families.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN