(The Center Square) – Minnesota Senate Republicans have proposed a $51.9 billion, two-year budget prioritizing COVID-19 recovery.
The GOP argued on Tuesday the state doesn’t need to raise taxes thanks to a $1.6 billion projected surplus and nearly $5 billion on the way to state and local governments from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package signed into law last week by President Joe Biden.
On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz is expected to revise his $52.4 billion proposed budget –the largest in state history– fueled by $1.66 billion in tax hikes.
“This budget funds our Minnesota Priorities to balance the budget without raising taxes, recover from COVID, and support Minnesota families,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in a statement. “We are focused on keeping the budget in control considering all the one-time money coming into the state from federal funds and stimulus checks. We are helping our businesses recover and get the economy moving again after the prolonged closures to mitigate COVID. And, we are giving families the support they need to prosper in our state.”
Senate Republican priorities budget includes tax relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan tax conformity, eliminating the tax on COVID-19 unemployment benefits, and funding extending the Reinsurance Program and the Law Enforcement Operations Account.
Budget highlights include:
40% for E-12 education:
- $19.8 billion total to fully fund the February forecast budget
- Funding to close racial and financial disparities, for teachers of color and student mental health
- Education Scholarship Accounts to give parents and students a choice in their schooling
31% for Healthcare:
- $13.7 billion meets the February budget forecast
- $100 million in cost savings from targeted reforms
- Shoring up the Health Care Access Fund for low-income access
$591 million for tax relief:
- Employer relief through PPP conformity
- Employee relief on COVID unemployment benefits during the pandemic
- A 5% reduction in government administrative costs
- $216 million increase for transportation
- $40 million for broadband included in Agriculture budget
Senate Finance Committee Chair Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the state shouldn’t dedicate one-time funding to government programs since it would later require additional funding.
“This budget is a picture of what we’re going to fund: COVID recovery, Minnesota families, student achievement, job creators and employees, safe streets, and roads and bridges – without raising taxes; it’s a picture of what we’re not going to fund: tax increases, defunding the police, felon voting, Green New Deal, or OneCare,” Gazelka said.
Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, called the GOP plan “woefully inadequate.”
“They fail to provide an inflationary increase in E-12 and would result in cuts in services to our students at a time when students need more help than ever,” Hortman said in a statement. “They would decrease our state’s commitment to agriculture and rural development, when that area of our state budget is already disproportionately small compared to the impact agriculture has on our state economy, and Republican Senators would decrease our commitment to housing and to veterans at a time of surplus.”