Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz proposed a $49.5 billion state budget for the next biennium, Tuesday, Feb. 19. His top priorities were roads and bridges, schools and affordable health care coverage.
A 20 cent per gallon gas tax increase is proposed, phased over two years. An increased motor vehicle sales tax and registration tax are planned over 10 years to fund transit and road and bridge improvements.
The proposal is a nearly 8 percent increase over the current $46 billion two-year budget.
“We share the goal of investing in the state’s future for the workforce, infrastructure and quality of like for Minnesota families,” Minnesota Chamber President Doug Loon said in response to Walz’s budget proposal. “But the pathway toward economic prosperity isn’t through increased spending and higher taxes, especially at a time of surplus. Instead of growing government, we should be handing private-sector innovators the tools to fuel future growth and not make it more costly to do business in Minnesota.”
Also included would be a continuation of a tax on health care providers and pulling more money from corporations through changes to the state tax code.
“Racial, geographic, and economic disparities hold back our state from reaching its full potential,” Walz said Tuesday.
“Minnesotans across the state struggle to find child care and housing that is affordable. Crumbling roads and bridges hamper our economy and threaten our safety.”
Minnesota has a $1.5 billion surplus, but with the state’s tax collection revenue down in recent months, that number could shrink.
Nonetheless, Walz’s budget would make significant investments in education, including $733 million for pre-kindergarten to high school and $158 million for higher education.
Walz wants to expand access to the MinnesotaCare health care program which he is calling ONECare.
$44 million is planned to be spent on the expansion of childcare and $70 million toward expanding broadband, with the goal of having all homes having access to high-speed internet by 2022.
Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, said he’s disappointed with some aspects of the proposal.
“Chief among those concerns is his intention to raise Minnesota’s gas tax by 70 percent, skyrocketing us all the way to the fourth highest gas tax in the nation,” noting it’s taking the state in the wrong direction.