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MN Budget Surplus: Calls for Investments in Child Care, Other Needs


Thursday, December 9, 2021   

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Following this week's announcement that Minnesota is looking at a historic budget surplus, lawmakers face pressure to prop up programs that serve working families, including child care.

The Minnesota Department of Management and Budget now projects a more-than $7 billion surplus. Ahead of the next legislative session, advocates are likely to intensify calls to prioritize spending in certain areas.

Bradley Peterson, executive director of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, said for communities in rural parts of the state, families continue to struggle in accessing affordable child care.

"In greater Minnesota," said Peterson, "a lot of the challenge is not only affordability, but just having anybody offering child care at any price."

He suggested that more funding for the Child Care Assistance Program, which serves low-income families, as well as trying to retain and add more providers.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz says he also would like to see funding for paid family and medical leave. But Republican leaders urge caution, while arguing a portion of the surplus should be used to provide tax relief.

Some GOP lawmakers say that relief could help families struggling with higher costs for food, energy and other resources. However, Peterson said the surplus represents a rare chance to not only boost child care in a big way, but also affordable housing and key infrastructure.

"We would really be remiss and really not setting ourselves up for future success if we didn't make significant investments in those items," said Peterson.

When it comes to infrastructure, Peterson said the state is still far behind in pouring enough resources into aging wastewater systems. That's despite devoted funding in recent years, including help from the federal government.

Meanwhile, groups such as the Children's Defense Fund say the surplus news provides real opportunities to create better futures for Minnesota children and their families by considering these investments.

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