While the state of Minnesota has plenty of money, Governor Tim Walz is asking lawmakers not to increase public spending on recurring items out of fear of a recession.
On Tuesday, Walz visited Lake Middle School in Woodbury, where he said that the atmosphere reminded him of early 2020, just before the coronavirus outbreak. He said that the state should exercise fiscal restraint now just as it did back then.
“I believe we will have to place a premium on one-time expenditures,” he added. There is still, I believe, widespread recognition that the economy will slow somewhat over the next two quarters, and we should give it some attention.
But Walz also said that the state should invest where it would “make a difference.” That includes ensuring everyone is safe and providing quality education from early childhood all the way through university for him.
Next week, the state budget office is anticipated to provide an updated version of the state budget estimate that will serve as a reference for Walz and lawmakers as they construct a budget for the 2024–25 biennium.
Ample funds remain for irregular expenses. This is because legislators wasted so little of the current biennium’s anticipated surplus of $9.3 billion earlier this year.
While Walz is still keen on issuing rebate checks to citizens, his fellow DFLers have been unenthusiastic about the plan.
Walz should have an easier job getting most of his agenda implemented now that the DFL controls both the House and Senate. The education plan calls for more funding for schools, especially those that don’t get additional funds from local property taxes, as well as increased access to school counselors and instructors of color.
He noted that it is difficult for school officials to plan when they don’t know if voters will pass the next referendum, saying, “Now is the moment to go big on this, to not simply tread water.”
When asked whether he supports making school meals free for all children, he said, “We wanted universal lunches.” I think it’s important to get it over there. Given that the state already pays the difference between free and reduced-price school meals, more students from higher-income families can eat for free at school.
Rep. Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring), the Republican leader in the House, said earlier this month that the GOP and DFL share a desire to increase spending on public safety and reduce taxes on Social Security income. She countered, however, that “simply putting more money into schools” would not improve student performance.
Walz has been in contact with GOP leaders despite the fact that he may not need their support to get his agenda passed.
“It’s important for people to realize they’re part of a larger community,” he added.