Gov. Tim Walz’s (D-MN) proposed budget for the 2020-2021 biennium calls for a $700,000 increase in funding for his own office to help with “outreach and engagement efforts.”
“The Office of Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan recommends a $700,000 FY 2020-2021 biennial General Fund increase to fund a new office of Public Engagement in the Governor’s Office,” the budget proposal states, noting that the funding would amount to a 9.7 percent increase.
According to the proposal, the increased funding would help respond to the “large volume of mail, email, telephone calls, and constituent visits.” On average, the budget estimates that the Governor’s Office receives “over 125,000 constituent contacts per year.”
“The Office does not have the current capacity to provide additional reactive and proactive outreach and engagement efforts, which are critical to Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan’s vision for One Minnesota,” the budget claims.
As such, Walz’s first budget proposes creating a new “Office of Public Engagement,” whose “primary responsibility is to connect with Minnesotans across the state to make government inclusive, transparent, accountable, and responsible.”
“The Office of Public Engagement helps open the two-way dialogue, ensuring that the issues impacting our state’s proud and diverse communities have a receptive team dedicated to making their voice heard within state government and helping their concerns be translated into action by the appropriate state agencies,” the proposal continues.
The Office of Public Engagement would consist of seven full-time staff members, who would help Walz and Flanagan reach a goal of increasing their “constituent work by 25 percent in the next fiscal year.”
The increased funding would also help promote “equity and inclusion” by ensuring that “communities of color, LGBTQ communities, persons with disabilities, and veterans are represented.”
“The purpose of active engagement is to ensure that people who are affected by decisions made by their government have an opportunity to provide advice, feedback, and guidance before those decisions are final. Our work will provide a direct conduit for diverse communities to make sure their voices are heard,” the proposal states.
Assistant Minority Leader Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) was shocked by Walz’s funding request.
“In a word: seriously?” Albright told The Star Tribune. “I find it a bit surreal that the governor is proposing a budget that raises taxes and he can’t find in his own budget what other administrations have found in theirs: the ability to take care of constituent services, because that’s what it is.”
Walz released his first budget proposal at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, calling for $49.5 billion in funding for a two-year period.
“I’ve often said that a budget is far more than a fiscal document; it’s a moral document,” Walz said Tuesday. “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.”
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