ST. PAUL (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe suggested the state should bank a projected $924 million budget surplus instead of returning it directly to taxpayers.
"We ought not to have a rebate this session," said Moe, DFL-Erskine. Instead, he said, "We ought to set the $924 million aside and create an endowment."
The interest from the endowment could be used to meet one-time needs in transportation, environment, infrastructure and other areas, he said.
By law, the surplus between now and July 2001 is supposed to go back to taxpayers in the form of individual checks that would average $400 apiece.
Moe's idea would need legislative approval, and it has not been adopted as formal Senate caucus position.
But, he said, "there is some sentiment in the caucus that there are better things to do with that money. We want to have that discussion."
It could be an uphill fight. Both House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, and Gov. Jesse Ventura said there will be no compromise where the rebate is concerned.
"That money belongs to taxpayers, and that's where we're sending it," Sviggum said.
John Wodele, Ventura's communications director, said Ventura expects current law to stand.
"When the books close in July 2001, that money goes back as the settle-up with taxpayers," he said. "That is what the law prescribes."
The law does not say explicitly that the money must be rebated. It says only that the Legislature must enact, modify or reject the rebate plan presented by the governor.
The "settle-up" was one of Ventura's first proposals when he took office in 1999. At the end of every two-year budget period, he wanted the state to send whatever surplus had accumulated back to taxpayers.
He also proposed sending the money back as a sales tax rebate that would not be subject to federal taxation. The idea has proved popular with Minnesotans, and other states have since emulated it.
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