The 2022 Minnesota Legislative session is now underway and both political parties have different budget priorities. Senate Republicans’ top funding items include permanent income tax cuts and more money for recruiting and retaining more police. House DFL members reportedly have been mostly silent with their funding plans.
DFL Governor Tim Walz, however, wants more funding for schools and child care, along with programs and projects that benefit Black and Indigenous communities.
“We’re really excited about that and hope the legislature will work with us,” Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan told the MSR last week, during an interview in which she explained the $7.58 billion proposal for new funding that the Walz-Flanagan administration introduced to state lawmakers late last month.
The administration’s budget proposals, unveiled on a 12-page spreadsheet, included new funding for schools, a new paid family and medical leave program, required paid sick leave, more child care subsidies, money for affordable housing, and new funding to combat homelessness throughout the state.
“We really focused on children and families,” explained Flanagan.
The proposed funding for public pre-K for four-year-olds and early learning scholarships for children ages 0-3 “is a really important element of that,” she added. “There’s 1.8 billion for childcare and education, access to affordable quality slots for Minnesota families, increased pre-K access, child care business, and child care assistance.
“We know that access to early childhood looks different all across the state, so by providing these dollars for mixed delivery, that really allows each community and each family to find the program that best meets their needs,” said Flanagan.
“The most exciting parts” of Walz’s supplemental budget recommendations, according to the lieutenant governor, is its focus on families. “We’ve proposed universal breakfast and lunch [for] all of our public schools, which we know will make a tremendous difference,” said Flanagan.
The proposal also includes “mental health support for our young people and medical sick and safe time to make sure that if someone is ill or has to take care of a sick family member that they don’t have to choose between caring for themselves, a loved one, and a paycheck,” she continued.
“I think our budget works to invest in the short run with some immediate relief for families,” said Flanagan. “But also, for the long run, children and early childhood is that backbone of the economy. We need to start talking about it that way.”
The Minneapolis bonding projects Walz and Flanagan proposed include “$100 million in cash and equity,” said the lieutenant governor and former state legislator. “For a really long time, even when I was in the legislature, all this was done behind closed doors as a secret handshake.
“We wanted to [remove] those obstacles and provide some transparency [for] our communities.” This also includes funding for a new Northside state-of-the-art swimming center currently under construction, as well as other projects earmarked for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, she pointed out.
“We’ve really seen that those investments directly make a difference,” said Flanagan, who proudly referred to the $1.9 billion bonding bill that the Walz-Flanagan administration proposed in 2020, which at the time was considered the largest in state history.
But Flanagan quickly warned that this year’s budget proposals will be challenging as the divided state legislature is now in session: “That has been our challenge during our time in office,” she said. “What we have heard from folks on the other side of the aisle is that they want to cut taxes for the wealthiest Minnesotans. Our budget is clearly investing in children and families and infrastructure and public safety [and] economic opportunity for families.
“I think that we’ve also been able to work with the legislature and come out with at the end of each session things that are good for Minnesotans,” Flanagan summarized. “The Black and Native community(s) has been under-resourced for a really long time so part of this budget is making sure that we are doing what is needed and necessary to try to catch up [to] make Minnesota a better place.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.