(Learfield News Service/St. Paul, MN) Governor Tim Walz presented his first state budget proposal Tuesday.
The governor’s nearly $50 million spending plan includes an investment of $733 million in additional preK to 12th-grade education, plus another $158 million for higher education and $1.9 billion in transportation and infrastructure funding.
Walz says “not only does our budget make thoughtful decisions when it comes to the budget and bonding, we do it in a way that invests in what works. Our budget uses data-driven results, makes reforms to serve more Minnesotans and empowers communities around the state to make decisions for themselves that work best.
But Republicans are sharply critical of the Walz budget. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says “this uncontrolled spending will give Minnesota the reputation of being cold California.” And he says there are so many things in the budget, “that it’s hard to even fathom how much is there. I’m not sure if there’s anything the governor did say ‘no’ to.
But Walz counters that Republicans shouldn’t be surprised at what’s in the proposal. He says he ran his campaign on what ended up in the budget and he won his election by a historic margin.
One of the most controversial aspects of the plan is a proposed 20-cent increase on the state gas tax. Walz says it will help “keep Minnesotans safe, help businesses and farmers get goods to market and ensure nothing like the I-35W bridge ever happens again in this state.” But House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt calls a gas tax “regressive” and says “it hurts low-income people, much more than high-income people and it’s also something that hurts Greater MN much more than it hurts the metro.”
Minnesota has a roughly $1.5 billion budget surplus, but recent monthly revenue numbers suggest that number could go down.