Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson addressed the Senate Wednesday, March 22, in response to the budget targets set by Governor Tim Walz and DFL leaders. Of the $17.5 billion budget surplus, the Governor and leaders specified that $3 billion be used for tax relief, with the remaining amount directed to state funding efforts, including $2.35 billion for early education, children and families, $2.2 billion for E-12 education, about $1 billion for transportation, and $1 billion for housing.
"With nearly $18 billion dollars in surplus, the Democratic party here is growing government by 30 percent," said Johnson. "Pare down this budget, pare down these targets to represent the needs of Minnesotans," he said.
In response, Assistant Majority Leader Nick Frentz said, "What Minnesotans wanted was a budget that supported education, that supported working men and women of Minnesota, and that's what this Senate, the House and the Governor are going to deliver."
Noting that the era of gridlock is over, Governor Tim Walz was joined by House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate President Bobby Joe Champion to unveil their agreement on budget targets for the state’s next two-year budget.
Among the allocations for the $17.5 billion budget surplus, the Governor and legislative leaders have directed that $3 billion be used for tax relief, $2.35 billion for early education, children and families, $2.2 billion for E-12 Education, approximately $1 billion for transportation, and $1 billion for housing.
Smaller investments include an additional $670 million for the environment and natural resources, $650 million for public safety, $400 million for state government and $128 million for veterans and military affairs.
Additional budget items include $668 million to implement a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program, $240 million to tackle lead pipes and $40 million in disaster relief. All budget areas will receive an increase, with the smallest allotments going to Labor at $8 million and Commerce and Elections each receiving $10 million. The agreement also includes almost $2.3 billion for an all-cash public infrastructure bill.
The announcement was held in the historic Capitol Reception Room Tuesday, March 21.
Governor Tim Walz held a ceremonial bill signing Tuesday, March 21, on a measure designed to curb the theft of catalytic converters. The new law prohibits the possession and sale of the auto exhaust part without it being clearly marked with a Vehicle Identification Number(VIN). Effective August 1, possession of a catalytic converter that is not clearly marked is a crime. The penalties range from a misdemeanor to a felony and is dependent upon the number of unmarked catalytic converters in possession.
A bill that would change some of Minnesota’s K-12 education policies -- requiring courses in civics and personal finance, incorporating the histories and experiences of people of color and indigenous people into the curriculum and prohibiting faith statement requirements for PSEO (postsecondary enrollment option) students -- will soon be debated by the full Senate. Chair of the Senate Education Policy Committee, Senator Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie, and Senator Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville, join Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to talk about aspects of the omnibus education policy bill and the importance of improving the reading skills of Minnesota's children.
Also in the program, highlights from the Senate floor debate over a measure that would provide free breakfast and lunch to all Minnesota students. Plus, Senator Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, pitches a plan to guarantee tax refunds during legislative gridlock and Republican lawmakers offer a package of proposals to address public safety concerns.
A $1.5 billion bonding bill failed to garner enough votes to pass the Senate Thursday, March 16. According to the Senate sponsor of HF 669, Senator Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, the infrastructure package represents a good mix of rural, urban, GOP and DFL projects. Capital improvements bills that rely on state borrowing require a three-fifths majority, meaning seven Republicans needed to join with the thirty-four member DFL majority. The final vote was 34-32.