Rep. Jeanne Poppe: Review of Gov. Walz’s Budget Proposal

Published 7:46 am Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz released his budget proposal for the next two years. While there’s still a lot to review and consider, it appears to move us in the right direction toward creating the “One Minnesota” he envisioned. The next step in the process happens when the February budget forecast is released. Soon after that happens, the governor will release an updated budget based on the new forecasted budget numbers.

Jeanne Poppe

When it comes to tax conformity, one item is important to farmers and small business owners. Gov. Walz proposes Minnesota fully conform with the federal law pertaining to Section 179 expensing. His proposal aligns with House File 515, legislation I am carrying which allows a taxpayer (farmers, small business owners) to deduct up to $1 million of their equipment purchases and eliminates the Minnesota 80 percent add-back for this deduction. HF 515 has already had a hearing in the House Taxes Committee. This will be a welcomed tax policy change.

Another issue supported in the governor’s budget, and one we have been addressing in the House Ag and Food Finance and Policy division, is increased funding for rural mental health resources. Farmers have been experiencing increasingly high levels of stress, linked to farm production challenges, financial difficulties, low commodity prices, high healthcare costs, weather challenges, and other factors beyond their control. The governor’s budget proposal would provide a $450,000 investment in rural mental health. This funding will add an additional mental health provider available to farmers, increase the number of farm advocates, and support/promote the 24-hour helpline/hotline.

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To address this issue as soon as possible, our Ag Committee this week amended and passed HF 232 to immediately infuse $100,000 from the 2019 budget to increase support to farm families. This immediate money will allow the Department of Agriculture to produce and purchase radio public service announcements regarding how to find help, and to increase other marketing and training initiatives. It would also be used to add an additional mental health therapist, and provide increased service capacity for farm advocates and farmer-lender mediators.

Other parts of Gov. Walz’s proposal include providing access to robust, dependable broadband internet. This utility is now recognized as an important factor in the economic well-being of communities all over the state. Minnesota set a goal of border-to-border broadband access by 2022. The governor’s budget would help accomplish that by funding $70 million over the next two years. These funds would help over 193,000 homes and businesses gain access to reliable internet, and set the groundwork for increasing broadband speeds in the future.

Returning Local Government Aid (LGA) and County Program Aid (CPA) to their previous levels is another goal of the budget proposal. Both aid programs would see an invested increase of $30 million a year.

I look forward to working with Gov. Walz and other members of the legislature to improve our state’s economy, support the well-being of our citizens, and fund the infrastructure on which we depend.