Governor Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka agreed on a framework for the state budget earlier this week. The agreement broadly outlines how $52 billion worth of state resources and federal COVID-19 relief funds will be invested over the next two years. Education has been one of my priorities, and this preliminary agreement includes significant support for our students, teachers and their schools.
There’s much more work to be done. Remaining details of the budget will be finalized in the next few weeks. Legislators from the House and the Senate will continue meeting in small “working groups” to determine the programs, services and expenditures on which they can agree. There will certainly be differences to resolve, but I’m confident we will reach agreement before the end of June.
Investing in Minnesota Students
Minnesota will receive nearly $5 billion of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan that President Biden and Congress passed earlier this year. Of this, local governments will receive $2.1 billion, and the state will receive $2.8 billion. While some of the funds are for specific purposes like rental assistance and small business loans, the rest will be dedicated to meeting the needs of people and communities across Minnesota. Much of the money from the federal aid is incorporated in the budget framework.
On Tuesday, the Governor announced an ambitious plan to help students recover from the pandemic. He’s directing $75 million from the American Rescue Plan to summer learning programs—support for academic achievement and mental health, early childhood education, expanded access to tutoring, strengthening support for both Adult Basic Education and college readiness. It’s a huge effort to help young children and older students regain the momentum that was lost during the last year.
Advocating for Public Safety . . .
The House and Senate have struggled over many issues this session. One area of deep disagreement has been police reform and accountability. Last year, we passed the Minnesota Police Accountability Act, a package of legislation that changed the standard for use of deadly force, banned “warrior training” and choke holds, established a duty to intercede, reformed investigation and arbitration, and expanded training. The Public Safety bill passed by the House this year included an additional list of specific, detailed reforms, including measures that would:
There’s opposition to the plan from some, and the Senate’s Republican majority has, so far, rejected the proposal, but I hope we can reach an agreement on law enforcement that reflects the standards and expectations of Minnesotans.
. . . and Listening to Constituents
My feelings on the issue have been influenced by Town Hall conversations on the subject organized by our Senate District 53 leadership and by discussions with members of our Woodbury Public Safety Department. Recently two constituents, both police officers, contacted me about reducing conflict between officers and the public, strengthening community relations with the police, and practicing the highest standards of law enforcement. Both made reference to Sir Robert Peel and his “standards of modern policing,” a statement of clear principles that strikes me as a good reference point for what I hope we accomplish in the final bill. Really helpful and instructive conversations for me.
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