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Gov. Tim Walz proposes $5 billion boost to child care, schools, paid family leave programs

The governor announced the plan Tuesday as part of his priorities for Minnesota's $7.75 billion budget surplus.

Gov. Tim Walz - Minneapolis
Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, announced his plan for spending part of the state's projected $7.75 billion budget surplus during a news conference at Minneapolis Community College.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on Tuesday, Jan. 25, put forth a $5.1 billion plan to boost funding for child care and pre-K resources around the state.

The pair of Democratic-Farmer-Labor officials pitched their proposal at an early learning and elementary school. And they said the spending was critical to supporting Minnesota families, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their expansive plan would add 6,000 new state-funded pre-kindergarten slots, boost early learning scholarships, increase funding to the state's child care assistance program and send out money to help stabilize child care providers around the state as they grapple with the financial strain of the pandemic.

It would also set up state-run programs to allow 12-weeks of paid family leave for workers who need to take care of a loved one or have a baby and the accumulation of up to 48 hours of paid sick time.

"These are two-generation proven strategies that address the whole child, the whole family the whole community and we know they work," Flanagan said. "When you increase family income and opportunity, we improve child outcomes."

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Public schools would see a funding boost of 2% compared to current levels, as well as extra support for paraprofessionals and money to offset cross-subsidies for special education and English language learners.

The plan would also offer free breakfast and lunch to all public school students, fund more mental health services and create a program to improve student reading proficiency.

Walz last week said $4.4 billion of the state's $7.75 billion budget surplus should be used to send out checks to 2.7 million Minnesota households, provide hero payments to front-line workers and build out other economic development programs. The governor was set to announce a final set of plans for the surplus money, along with other unused federal dollars, on Wednesday.

The governor's plans could help shape a supplemental budget plan at the Capitol, but Walz likely won't get everything he has asked for. Plans have to make it through the divided Statehouse to become law.

Democrats who control the House of Representatives on Tuesday said they were aligned with the governor's plans around child care, school funding and programs that help workers. And they advanced plans of their own to increase funding levels for early learning, K-12 schools and higher education.

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Fifty-seven state lawmakers announced that they would leave their seats due to redistricting, desires to seek another office or for personal reasons. The exits include some of the Capitol's best-known deal makers, opening room for one of the largest crops of new freshman legislators in decades.

They said they'd compromised with Republicans to prevent a state government shutdown in 2021, but they hoped to boost spending to those areas moving forward.

“This is a recognition of the need in this area," Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, said.

Republicans pointed to historic funding levels for public schools passed in the 2021 budget and additional relief that came to the state through the federal government. And they said legislators should prioritize giving more of the surplus back to taxpayers rather than increasing state spending.

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"With a $7.7 billion surplus, Minnesotans deserve permanent and meaningful tax relief," House Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, said. "Instead, Gov. Walz is pushing massive new government spending and billions in tax hikes on businesses and workers who are already struggling with inflation and soaring energy costs."

Senate Republicans are set to lay out their top priorities for the legislative session on Wednesday.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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