Gov. Tim Walz has made headway on some campaign goals, such as increasing education funding and local government aid. Others fell by the wayside amid partisan gridlock during his first year. Here is a look at where Walz’s key objectives stand.
Walz wants to significantly reduce or eliminate the need for local referendums to fund schools and make measurable progress on closing the racial achievement gap. Working with lawmakers, Walz increased per-pupil spending by 2% last session and further subsidized special education. Denise Sprecht, president of the teachers union, Education Minnesota, said the budget last year “stopped the bleeding” in some areas, but schools need another $4 billion in the 2021-2022 budget.
Walz also aims to provide all Minnesota children with a free pre-kindergarten option — something former DFL Gov. Mark Dayton pushed. In his first year, Walz maintained funding for 4,000 existing pre-K seats but did not increase access.
Walz proposed a 20 cents-per-gallon increase to the state gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure. It didn’t pass. Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher said she doesn’t see 2020 as the year to push a “comprehensive transportation package” with a gas tax increase. Walz said he will challenge Republicans who rejected the gas tax to offer transportation funding alternatives. He also plans to continue trying to build support for a future gas tax increase.
Walz called for expanded background checks for gun purchases, as well as the passage of a “red flag” law allowing family or friends to petition the courts to temporarily remove weapons from people considered a danger to themselves or others. Neither of those bills saw any momentum last session, with the Republican majority in the Senate firmly opposed.
Walz said he, his wife, Gwen, and legislators are going to keep looking for middle ground.
Health care buy-in
The governor’s “ONECare” proposal would create a public health care option that any Minnesotan could buy into. Senate Republicans rejected the idea. Instead, much of the health care debate in 2019 was focused on a looming sunset of the tax on health care providers. Walz struck a deal with Republicans to continue that tax but lowered it slightly. He plans to push for ONECare in the next two-year budget, which will be decided in 2021.