ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan are touting a newly revised state budget, based off an improved economic forecast released last month.
Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) showed the state's projected budget surplus will be a historic $9.25 billion, up from the $7 billion projection expected earlier this year.
Walz and Flanagan met with reporters at a gas station in New Hope Thursday morning to discuss three main areas where Walz seeks to use additional funds: supporting Minnesotans and small businesses; protecting health and safety; and supporting children and families.
The lead item discussed by the governor is the so-called "Walz Checks" promised to Minnesota households. Walz originally promised direct payments of $175 to single tax filers who earn less than $164,400 and $350 to married couples who earn less than $273,470 per year.
With their new revisions, the payment amount has now jumped to $500 for singles and $1,000 for married couples.
“Thanks to the hard work of Minnesotans across the state, Minnesota’s economy is strong,” Governor Walz said in a statement. “With a historic surplus, we have an opportunity to provide direct relief to Minnesotans and invest in the future of our state. Amid global economic uncertainty, direct payments are one of the best ways to make it easier for Minnesotans to pay their bills. Right now, we have the resources to send $1,000 to Minnesota families.”
A proposed $73 million would be infused into Minnesota's public pension plans, with another $20 million earmarked for the Main Street Economic Revitalization program.
The governor and lieutenant governor also plan to make investments in reducing crime and gun violence, including the purchase of a new twin engine helicopter for the state patrol. The agencies current chopper has been heavily used, especially in the patrol's HEAT enforcement effort.
Walz and Flanagan also plan to expand access to health care for Minnesotans, including the state's children.
“Our revised budget continues to put children, families, and workers at the forefront by increasing direct payments to Minnesotans, expanding child nutrition programs, investing in emergency shelter services, and more,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “We want Minnesota to be the best state to raise a family. With our Budget to Move Minnesota Forward – including funding for schools, workers, and families – we can make that happen for Minnesotans.”
The Walz-Flanagan budget continues the state’s program to train eligible students to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs). This program is currently being funded with federal American Rescue Plan dollars.
This budget also invests $215 million over three years to recruit and retain frontline workers who provide essential care for people with disabilities, older adults, people with behavioral health needs, and people experiencing homelessness.
Child care and pre-K programs may see additional funding if the governor's budget is approved. It aims to invest an additional 2% in the general education formula while providing $15 million for education support professionals.
Minnesota Republicans have outlined a starkly different plan for the state's budget surplus, taking the form of tax breaks instead of the direct payouts envisioned by Gov. Walz.
At the end of last month, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller and other GOP lawmakers indicated that they wanted to cut the state's first tier tax rate from 5.35% to 2.8% beginning with the current tax year. The first-tier rate would apply to the first $41,000 of a resident's income on a joint return, or the first $28,000 for single filers.
Republicans have also proposed exempting all Social Security income from state taxes, which would use $539 million of the current surplus, and become an ongoing exemption year after year.
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