State estimates $323 million surplus through 2013 budget cycle

Today's projection is the second positive one in a row following years of doom and gloom.
Today's projection is the second positive one in a row following years of doom and gloom.

The state's budget for the 2012-13 budget cycle continues to pleasantly outpace expectations.

Later today, state officials will announce that the current two-year budget has a $323 million surplus. That good news comes on the heels of a surprising November projection that showed the state $876 million richer than expected.

The November surplus was used to fill the budget reserve and the state's cash flow account. This time around, the $323 million will be used to further replenish reserves and begin restoring the $2.7 billion lawmakers borrowed from public schools -- in other words, don't expect lawmakers to use the dough for additional spending or tax relief.

The positive projections follow two straight years of disastrous reports during the recession of 2008-09. But even today's budget news isn't all good: The forecast predicts a $1.1 billion shortfall for the 2014-15 biennium.

Earlier this week, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said, "the Great Recession pounded us," adding that "one or two, or even three good forecasts are not going to fix that right away."

In sum, today's forecast conforms to the trend we've seen with most economic indicators in recent months: Things are heading in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go to undo the damage wrought by the Great Recession.

Related coverage:
-- Minnesota job market improved drastically last year
-- Minnesota child poverty nearly doubled during last decade
-- Minnesota foreclosures down in 2011, but still well above pre-housing crisis levels

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