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Invest state surplus in roads, education

Everyone agrees that it’s good news: the state of Minnesota is expected to have a $1.9 billion surplus with which to work as the Legislature continues its current session.
Of course, not everyone agrees on what to do with the money. Some say the surplus is proof that the state is overtaxing its residents and businesses, and at least some of the money should be returned to the taxpayers. Other feels that the money should be invested into infrastructure and education, among other needs.
We tend to agree with the latter option. While a rebate check is nice, the state has a myriad of needs it needs to address.
We need to remember that the surplus is coming on the heels of recovery of a multi-year recession that led to budget deficits for the state and, as a result, the state neglected or postponed many of its needs as it waited for the economy to recover.
There is no doubt that our roads need attention. While a one-time dumping of some of the surplus into transportation will do limited good, it is at least a foothold toward achieving more.
And while the state has paid back the money it “borrowed” from school districts by shifts in paying the state-aid formula, very little new money has been added to education.
While we advocate investments of our surplus into transportation and education, we want those investments to be done not only well, but fairly.
If the Legislature is considering investing in roads and bridges, it needs to remember that most of the state exists outside the Twin Cities metro area. It needs to give the same consideration to Greater Minnesota as it does the metro area.
It also needs to address its aging roads and bridges before it invests new money into light rail and other modes of transportation.
And any investment in education must follow the same lines — the state already invests more in metro-area education than it does in outstate Minnesota. We need to remember the premise on which Minnesota eduation funding was once based — that a Minnesota student in sparsely populated southwest Minnesota is just as important as a student living in downtown St. Paul.
Let’s invest our surplus into our infrastructure and educating our children. Both are investments in the future.