Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) unveiled his highly anticipated budget proposal for the 2020-2021 biennium at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. When all is said and done, the two-year budget registers at $49.5 billion with no cuts to any existing spending.
“I’ve often said that a budget is far more than a fiscal document; it’s a moral document. This budget reflects the morals and values of the people of Minnesota. This is the budget that Minnesotans voted for in historic numbers in November,” Walz said during his lengthy address.
Walz said his proposal prioritizes three core areas: education, health care, and “community prosperity.” For the first, Walz proposed a three percent followed by a two percent increase in education spending, which is roughly $523 million more.
“While some schools have turf fields and a stadium, another school is trying to pass a referendum to fix a leaky roof,” he said. “As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the power of investment in a child.”
He went on to lay out a number of health care proposals, including a “OneCare Minnesota” public buy-in option, and the continuation of the two percent provider tax, which Republicans would like to let expire at the end of this year. His plan would also include $68 million to establish a paid family leave and medical benefit insurance account.
“This buy-in option will offer a high quality, affordable plan to Minnesotans with more services, lower deductibles, and lower co-pays than is currently available within the individual market. When the market fails to offer enough choices for Minnesota families, Minnesota’s public option will bridge the gap,” Walz said.
Many of the most controversial aspects of his proposal, however, were included in his plans for transportation and infrastructure across the state. A gas-tax increase was without a doubt the most talked-about budget item leading up to Tuesday’s release, and Walz proposed a 20-cent increase, 10 cents higher than what was expected. That’s a 70 percent increase to the current 28 cent gas tax, and would put Minnesota at number four in the nation.
“This is not a choice between whether we want the gas tax or not. It’s a choice between living in a state with the best transportation system in the country or one with crumbling roads and bridges,” Walz said.
His proposal would also increase the vehicle registration tax from 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent, and the motor vehicle sales tax from 6.5 percent to 6.875 percent.
Walz also announced $550,000 in new spending for the Department of Public Safety to implement “gun violence prevention” programs, such as red-flag laws.
Minnesota House and Senate Republican leaders responded to Walz’s budget proposal at a press conference immediately following the announcement.
“In the end, he made a number of promises, and this first budget is the kind of budget you get when you promise everyone everything,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said.
“There are so many things in there that it’s hard to even fathom how much is there. I’m not sure there’s anything the governor did say no to,” he added. “This uncontrolled spending will give Minnesota the reputation of being a cold California. If we’re not careful, we will move to the position of number-one taxed state in the union.”
He went on to call the continuation of the two percent provider tax a “dead issue,” and blasted Walz’s proposal for “government run health care” as a “recipe for disaster.”
“There were no real forms to control the rise in spending—no real address of waste, fraud, and abuse. If we hadn’t grown 39 percent in our budget over the last eight years, maybe we’d have a different argument,” he continued.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said his “jaw was hitting the floor” as he listened to Walz unveil his proposal.
“I’m interested in why we think we have to raise taxes on Minnesotans when we’re already collecting more than we need,” he said, noting that Minnesota currently has a $1.5 billion budget surplus. “This will make Minnesota absolutely uncompetitive. This is not ‘One Minnesota,’ this is one expensive Minnesota.”
You can read Walz’s full budget proposal here.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Tim Walz” by Tim Walz. Background Photo “Tim Walz Press Conference” by Tim Walz.