Minnesota budget forecast shows $323 million surplus

Published On: Feb 29 2012 10:20:53 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 29 2012 10:21:20 AM CST

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota's lead budget official says a new prediction of a small surplus reflects state economic conditions that are "steady and consistent."

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter released an economic forecast on Wednesday that shows a $323 million surplus. Most of that money is spoken for, however, to repay school IOUs.

State lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton would need to reach common agreement to make tax cuts or spend the extra money in a different way.

The state has posted two consecutive forecasts with surpluses, but most of the money has been used to replenish rainy-day accounts exhausted during recent budget fixes.

Minnesota's unemployment rate is falling faster than the national average, wages are climbing more quickly and the economy is generally performing better than the U.S. at large.