Walz budget revisions focus on shoring up new tax credit, ambulance services

Published 5:07 pm Monday, March 18, 2024

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By Dana Ferguson

Gov. Tim Walz introduced a $226 million rework of the state budget Monday, opting to leave most of a projected surplus untouched to avoid causing more pressure on Minnesota’s finances in the future.

The revisions include $45 million more to pay for a child tax credit that goes to families based on income as well as smaller amounts to deal with high nitrate levels in southern Minnesota drinking water and a budget deficiency at the agency that runs state prisons.

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Ambulance services aid aimed at reducing strains in some rural communities would be boosted by $16 million. Child welfare and protection initiatives are also augmented under his plan.

Walz said he wanted to maintain a balanced budget so he was selective in his proposal.

“This is a bonding year. It’s not a budget year. That’s why we’re going to meet this moment with a smaller, intentional supplemental budget that addresses statewide needs,” Walz said at a Capitol news conference. “The things we’re prioritizing are falling in about three buckets here: safe communities, clean drinking water and support for children and families.”

He said he is also leaving room to negotiate over other items, including adding money for school meal guarantees to cover the costs of milk supplies.

Lawmakers pushing for additional state funding for emergency medical services said they were glad to see the priority highlighted in the plan but felt the proposal was “far from enough.”

“What we know from the governor today is that he has heard us loud and clear on the need to address the EMS crisis and we will continue to fight for the aid our local communities need,” said Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown.

Republican Sen. Andrew Lang of Olivia also said the amount Walz wants for emergency medical services is too low, saying the governor wants to “pinch pennies before funding emergency medical services for greater Minnesota.”

“This is not a luxury,” Lang said. “In many cases, it’s life or death.”

The governor’s recommendations also pull back some funding that was previously allocated, including $5 million that would have gone to help stage a 2027 World Expo in Bloomington after another country was selected as the host.

The proposed budget changes, which move next to the DFL-led Legislature, would leave about $3.5 billion of a projected budget surplus untouched. That’s important because state finance officials have warned that each new dollar committed to an ongoing program this year would push Minnesota closer to red ink in coming years.

“I think we’re triaging in a non-budget year to deal with the things that need to be dealt with right now,” the governor said about the lean spending plan.

In 2023, Walz and the Legislature signed off on a roughly $72 billion budget, although some of that was on one-time costs.