Budget surplus could benefit U

Daily Editorial Board

In St. Paul, legislators are abuzz about how best to spend Minnesota’s $1.9 billion surplus. By law, the state must invest about $600 million into its reserves for future use.
 
The rest, however, is up for grabs. 
 
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, urged legislators to invest heavily in Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure and return the surplus’s remaining value to taxpayers. Other Republican leaders have pushed for tax cuts. 
 
Gov. Mark Dayton has expressed willingness to consider tax cuts for the middle class — but only if the plan also includes provisions to support higher education and early education. 
 
Dayton originally abandoned the universal preschool initiative in May after Republican legislators refused to embrace it. Nevertheless, his willingness to support tax cuts in exchange for preschool funding suggests Dayton still hopes to strike a deal with the GOP. 
 
In any case, Dayton has stated he wants to dedicate $100 million of the surplus toward an expansion of Minnesota’s rural broadband coverage, which is currently spotty.
 
We support substantial investments in both universal preschool and transportation infrastructure, but we also urge legislators to consider using a portion of the surplus to freeze tuition at the University of Minnesota. 
 
Earlier this year, the University requested a $65.2 million in state funding. When the Legislature supplied just $22 million, the school’s then-ongoing tuition freeze became
unsustainable. However, now that the state budget surplus has increased by $1 billion since last spring, we hope lawmakers reconsider their commitment to the University.