"Commissioner Myron Frans has shown his superb ability to manage our state's finances," said Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton

CHICAGO — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton tapped Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans to replace Jim Schowalter in the state's top fiscal post at Minnesota Management and Budget.

Both positions are cabinet-level posts. The deputy revenue commissioner, Cynthia Bauerly, will take over as revenue commissioner from Frans. Schowalter is leaving his job as MMB commissioner to become the president and chief executive officer of Minnesota Health Plans.

Schowalter exits state government after 20 years, including the last four as MMB commissioner. He previously served as assistant commissioner and state budget director. Schowalter's career also included stints as a regional economist for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as a budget officer in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

"Commissioner Jim Schowalter brought tremendous fiscal expertise and a deep commitment to excellent public service to Minnesota Management and Budget during the past four years," Dayton said in a statement Wednesday. "I have relied heavily on his wise counsel, and the entire State of Minnesota has benefitted greatly from his outstanding service."

Frans joined the Dayton administration in 2010 from the private sector after Dayton's election and helped craft and win support for a tax overhaul that included an income tax hike on the state's top earners.

"During the past four years, Commissioner Myron Frans has shown his superb ability to manage our state's finances, as commissioner of Revenue," said Dayton. "He will continue his outstanding service, as Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget."

The changes come as Dayton, a member of the state's Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, heads into his second term.

MMB manages the state's budget process and debt management - led by Kristin Hanson - falls under the office's auspices.

Dayton will unveil a new two year operating budget Jan. 27. Rising income tax revenue from the tax hike and an improved economy and lower healthcare spending have pushed Minnesota's projected budget surplus beyond $1 billion based on its annual November revenue forecast. The figures are used to craft a budget and lawmakers then rely on a February forecast to complete work on the budget.

The latest figures provide a stark contrast to Minnesota's fiscal position just a few years ago when the state was facing a $5 billion deficit.

Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's assign AA-plus ratings to the state's $6 billion of general obligation debt and Moody's Investors Service assigns its Aa1 rating.

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