ST. PAUL (AP) - Minnesota finance officials say lawmakers have a $1 billion projected surplus at their disposal in the upcoming session.

The estimate provided Thursday in a new economic forecast should make for a smoother path to a new two-year budget. The Legislature convenes in January and will get a proposed budget from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton later in the month.

The financial cushion is welcome news at a Capitol where lawmakers have spent years battling deficits, repaying IOUs and refilling rainy-day accounts.

The projection is drawn from economic growth estimates combined with tax and spending patterns.

While Dayton will use the figure to shape his budget, legislators get one more forecast report in late February or early March before they have to give final approval to a plan.