Yesterday, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan released their two year budget proposal. Various unions, worker focused organizations and allies responded to the budget proposal.
Governor Walz funded all state agencies’ operating budgets. His proposed budget prioritizes safety for state employees and all Minnesotans with $24 million in funding for cyber security and $40 million for overdue IT projects. An additional $4 million was designated for MNiT operating increases and staff to tackle the 300-400 IT projects that are being worked on at any given time in state agencies.
“This is a budget that will move us toward One Minnesota,” said Chet Jorgenson, President of MAPE. “We’re pleased to see a budget that promotes the proper funding of programs that Minnesotans rely on. Walz’s budget makes a historic investment in schools, provides every Minnesotan with additional healthcare options and expands access to affordable childcare and housing.”
Other items to note in the budget include $68 million to build the IT infrastructure to support paid family and medical leave for all Minnesotans, the funding of an independent sexual harassment and prevention office, gun violence protection and proposals to tackle elder abuse.
“Today the Walz administration took seriously the call we all have to care for one another and to use our shared resources to make sure that every family, regardless of how much or little they make, Black or white, rural or city, has the ability to hear the first coos of their newborn, to hold the hand of an ailing spouse or be with a parent for their final days on earth. All Minnesotans deserve this and shouldn’t have to sacrifice their ability to put food on the table or keep a roof over their head to make it happen.
Walz has proposed a half-a-million dollars in middle class tax relief to better conform to new federal tax regulations. An additional $990 million in revenue will be generated by the continuation of the provider tax, a tax on healthcare professionals that in part funds efforts to help low income individuals access healthcare.
Not all the budget news has been positive for workers and working families.
In response to the budget released today by Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan that proposes cuts for some Minnesota nursing homes, St. Charles nursing home worker and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Jeanne Schulz released the following statement.
“We understand that the proposal says cuts would be focused on reining in ballooning costs for out-of-state management and executives, and we share a strong concern about the wave of acquisitions of Minnesota nursing homes by out-of-state companies in recent months and the impact those changes have had on nursing residents and workers. But we know that the line-item being targeted for cuts, called “other operating costs,” includes many hard-working frontline staff, not just management and administration. Members like me whose main job is to cook the food, clean the building, take out the trash, or work in the laundry are considered “other operating costs” simply because we are not doing the direct resident care a nursing assistant or nurse performs. And many of us are already making $3-$5/hour less than our nursing-assistant coworkers because the reimbursement reform passed by state lawmakers in 2015 focused only on the workers involved in direct care."
As anticipated, Walz’s budget also includes a 20-cent gas tax increase, which will help stabilize Minnesota’s general fund, address a crumbling infrastructure and pump $18 billion into Minnesota roads over the next 20 years. Walz’s bonding bill comes out Thursday.
“Minnesota’s crumbling infrastructure is putting our safety at risk. Governor Walz’ budget will fix our roads and bridges and make Minnesota safer”, said Tim Mackey, LIUNA Minnesota and North Dakota President and Business manager. "The Governor is proposing an honest and common-sense increase in the gas tax that meets funding needs to maintain our current transportation system. Governor Walz’ budget will make Minnesotans safer, create family-supporting jobs, help businesses and farmers get goods to market, and ensure nothing like the I-35W bridge collapse happens again."
The two year budget proposal would repeal the sunset of the 27 year old health care provider tax—protecting health care for one million Minnesotans—and lays the groundwork to expand affordable health care throughout the state with ONECare.
In response TakeAction Minnesota, SEIU, Land Stewardship Project, and ISAIAH released the following statement:
“As Minnesotans, we care about each other. When one person can’t afford or access the health care they need, it hurts all of us. We’re strongest when no one is left behind, and when our health care centers people.
This last election saw thousands of conversations about healthcare and what we need to make sure our state moves forward. Our elected officials are responsible for making health care work for everyone, no exception. It’s clear that Governor Walz has heard the frustration and heartbreak over health care in every corner of the state and is taking action with his first budget to address these challenges. His budget protects health care for one million Minnesotans and lays the groundwork to expand affordable health care, all without giving handouts to insurance companies. Minnesotans want bold action on health care and Gov. Walz is leading the way.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued the following statement about Governor Tim Walz’s proposed biennial budget for the State of Minnesota:
“Governor Walz’s budget delivers on the promise of One Minnesota. By making much-needed investments in education, community prosperity, and affordability of and access to healthcare, it helps working and middle-class families of every background thrive in every community, corner, and way of life of our state.
I also thank Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan for supporting the work of the Attorney General’s Office in their budget. That support will help my office continue to do what the One Minnesota budget also does: help people afford their lives and live with dignity and respect.”