Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Peggy Flanagan unveiled the rest of their supplemental budget plan on Wednesday, which includes a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana.
With Minnesota's projected $7.7 billion budget surplus for the 2022-23 biennium, Walz and Flanagan have shared their spending wish list, "Budget to Move Minnesota Forward," ahead of next week's start of the 2022 Legislative Session. The proposal is focused on health and safety, helping families and kids, expanding economic opportunities for Minnesotans, and a bonding proposal for local jobs and projects, the governor's office says.
The governor shared details of the health and safety portion of his supplemental budget proposal on Wednesday, stressing the importance of expanding health care access, reducing crime, addressing climate change, and affordable housing.
Walz proposes legalizing marijuana
One piece of the proposal would legalize cannabis for adults. Walz has previously said he'd sign a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, should one get through the legislature, but he hadn't proposed it before.
The DFL-controlled Minnesota House of Representatives in 2021 passed a bill to legalize marijuana, but the measure went nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate.
And Walz's proposal will surely be a sticking point in the legislature this year. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) on Wednesday, prior to the release of this piece of Walz's supplemental budget proposal, said he doesn't see a path for the legalization of recreational marijuana this year.
According to a news release, Walz and Flanagan said Minnesota needs "modernized solutions to harness the benefits of legalizing cannabis," including creating jobs, expanding the state's economy, allowing police to focus on violent crime, and regulating the industry to keep kids safe.
The proposal includes $25.2 million to create a new cannabis management office to implement the regulatory framework for adult-use marijuana and a program to regulate hemp and hemp-derived products.
It would also provide for the expungement of non-violent offenses involving cannabis, as well as offer grants to help those entering the marijuana market, provide resources for substance use disorder treatment and prevention, and implement taxes on marijuana, with tax revenue coming in as early as fiscal year 2024 and 2025.
Health, public safety proposals
The legalization of marijuana is just one piece of Walz's $2.5 billion health and safety supplemental budget proposal, which he says is a "comprehensive, modern approach to public safety."
The budget would invest $300 million over three years to cities, counties and tribes so they can meet the "evolving expectations of public safety," as well as make health care and housing more affordable and address climate needs.
Here's a breakdown of some of the proposals:
— $9.7 million in 2023 and $18.3 million in 2024-25 for a violent crime reduction support initiative for additional programming and staff support to combat violent crime, including establishing a violent crime support unit within the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
— $12.5 million in 2023 and $17.5 million in 2024-25 for domestic violence and sexual assault intervention and prevention programs that could serve more than 75,000 people annually.
— $9 million over the next three years for youth development grants to fund after-school activities, tutoring, mentoring, workforce development, mental health services and truancy prevention.
— $30 million over the next three years for grants for community policing initiatives, especially those that address violent crime and drug crime, and $15 million for community-based public safety program grants.
— $5.9 million to improve law enforcement recruitment efforts to hire more police officers
— $145.7 million to expand access to affordable health care by creating a MinnesotaCare buy-in, and $500,000 to study how free primary care could be offered in Minnesota.
— $10 million each year, starting in fiscal year 2023, for prenatal to PreK housing support to an estimated 1,425 families each year, as well as extending the Homework Starts with Home program.
— $95 million over three years to expand overnight emergency shelter options for families.
— $100 million in fiscal year 2023 to preserve and improve existing housing, as well as $12 million in 2023 and $20 million in FY 2024-25 for payment and closing cost assistance.
— Funding to establish a Green Bank to finance green energy projects in Minnesota.
— $35 million investment fund to research and develop clean energy technology
— $54 million for local grants to prepare communities for extreme weather
— $4.5 million to address the impact on Minnesota's 2021 drought, $3 million to address the impact of drought on water conservation, and $2.75 million to replace seedlings that didn’t survive the 2021 drought on DNR-managed lands
— $40 million for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs to provide service bonuses for post-9/11 veterans and Gold Star families
— $1.1 million for Veterans Affairs' Homes for Veterans program and $8.8 million to establish permanent supportive housing options for Minnesota veterans
— $200 million for the Metro Transit's Blue Line Light Rail extension
The governor's full supplemental budget proposal to the Minnesota Legislature totals $12.8 billion in general fund money over the next three years.
Here are the governor's other budget proposals that were announced over the past week:
Support for schools, families
On Tuesday, Walz and Flanagan pitched their $5.1 billion plan they say would support kids and families by investing in schools, child care, and paid leave.
"We need to ensure that, starting from birth, our kids are getting the world-class education they deserve and that our families are getting the resources they need to succeed," Walz said in a statement Tuesday.
Aspects of the governor's proposal include providing free breakfast and lunch to students, creating paid family and sick/safe leave programs, and expanding public Pre-K to serve more than 23,000 learners.
The proposal would increase the state's general education funding formula by 2% and help address teacher and staff shortages by allocating $15 million for education support professionals (paraprofessionals) and offer retention bonuses, among other programs.
Walz and Flanagan's proposal aims to address students' mental health needs by allocating $77 million to address school support personnel shortages, as well as $9.983 million annually to enhance school mental health screening, $3.759 million to increase access to infant and early childhood mental health programs, and $26 million to retain/create mental health beds for kids.
It would also increase child care assistant payment rates and allocate funding to stabilize child care providers and programs hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as help make access to college more affordable for students and parents by expanding grant programs, and a pilot program to eliminate college application fees for schools in Minnesota.
'Walz checks,' projects plan
Last week, Walz and Flanagan shared the first two proposals in their supplemental "Budget to Move Minnesota Forward."
One proposal aims to expand economic opportunity by sending $700 million in direct payments to Minnesotans via "Walz checks," totaling $175 for single tax filers who make up to $164,400 or $350 for a married couple earning no more than $273,470.
It would also include $1 billion in direct payments to frontline workers, $170 million for getting more Minnesotans broadband access; $19 million to help farmers and meat processors; tax cuts for families and small businesses; and $2.73 billion to cover up a gap in the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
Walz and Flanagan have also announced their record-setting $2.73 billion Local Jobs and Projects Plan, which they say will address current maintenance needs across the state and prepare Minnesota for the future.
The capital investment plan includes $940 million in projects Walz says will help Minnesota prevent or adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts.