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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: February budget forecast shows $1.2 billion surplus

ST. PAUL -  Minnesota's expected budget surplus has grown about 50 percent since the November economic forecast.  The February budget forecast shows the state has a surplus of $1.2 billion dollars for fiscal years 2014-2015. 

That's up about $400 million dollars from November and presumably due to the improving economy.  Lawmakers now have to decide what to do with the extra money -- the kind of problem they like to have during an election year.  Governor Dayton has proposed middle-class tax cuts plus repealing three business-to-business taxes, which would use about 850 million dollars of the surplus.  House Democrats have proposed a similar but slightly more modest package.


The majority leader of the Minnesota State Senate remains cautious about tax cuts, even though the latest forecast shows a $1.2 billion budget surplus.  Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) emphasizes the new forecast doesn't show much change in future years beyond the current budget cycle.  He says there's a little bit of new one-time money for this biennium that he hopes to be able to invest in increasing the state's budget reserve and using some cash to supplement the bonding bill. Meanwhile, House Democrats and Governor Mark Dayton have both proposed a package of middle-class tax cuts, plus repealing three controversial business-to-business sales taxes. 


State officials are inviting Volkswagen to consider relocating its Tennessee production plant in Minnesota.  Senator David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) Commissioner Tony Sertich sent a letter to VW this week.  It was prompted by Republican legislators in Tennessee threatening to withhold future business incentives to Volkswagen after its workers voted to join a union.  The letter says in part "we are serious about supporting business growth in Minnesota...we would be happy to discuss how our state can partner with Volkswagen in building cars for the future with our educated and skilled workforce."     


The Gustavus Adolphus College Board of Trustees has elected its first female president in the school's 152-year history.  Rebecca Bergman officially becomes the 17th president on July 1st and will succeed retiring Gustavus President Jack Ohle.  She said "I have prized the opporunity to work with an institution so strongly committed to education and discovery." Bergman has worked the past 26 years at Medtronic Inc. including the last 14 years as a senior executive.  She has served on the Gustavus Board of Trustees since 2007. 


A couple more weather records fell Thursday in northeastern Minnesota.  The National Weather Service says a record-low high temperature of three-below zero was set in Duluth, breaking the old record of zero from 1962.  International Falls had a record-low temperature of 36-below zero on February 27th, which broke the previous record of minus-30 set in 1962. The Twin Cities just missed a record-low high temp of one-below zero yesterday when the mercury reached one-above.