GOVERNOR WALZ, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR FLANAGAN ANNOUNCE PLAN TO EXPAND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR MINNESOTANS

Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan today announced a series of proposals to expand economic opportunity in Minnesota as part of the Walz-Flanagan Budget to Move Minnesota Forward. The series of supplemental budget proposals include delivering $700 million in direct payments to Minnesotans through Walz Checks. Today’s announcement follows the rollout of their 2022 Local Jobs and Projects Plan earlier this week.

“To continue growing Minnesota’s economy, we must invest in the people who made it strong in the first place,” said Governor Walz. “By investing in workforce development, cutting taxes for the middle class and working families, lowering costs, and expanding access to resources like technical education and high-speed broadband, we will improve economic prosperity across the state and grow the workforce we need to compete.”

“This plan builds our economy by putting people—our strongest asset—at the center of the blueprint. Right now, we have a remarkable opportunity to give money back to middle class Minnesotans, working families, and small businesses,” continued Governor Walz. “In this budget, if you are a frontline worker with children, earning up to $70,000 per year, you will get about $2,000 back in your pocket.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen economic inequities exposed and exacerbated – for frontline workers, for young people, for immigrants and BIPOC communities, and for small, family-owned businesses. Our plan to expand economic opportunity will help ensure we are meeting the needs of all Minnesotans in a 21st century economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “When we pursue strategic and equitable investments in our economic future, we aren’t just recovering from the pandemic – we’re coming back stronger than ever.”

Walz Checks

The Walz-Flanagan budget proposes delivering $700 million in direct payments to Minnesotans through Walz Checks. Over the past two years, Minnesotans have continued to drive the state’s economy forward. As a result, Minnesota has a historic surplus. Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan propose distributing Walz Checks of up to $350 for Minnesotans. Single tax filers earning up to $164,400 would receive a payment of $175. A married couple filing jointly earning up to $273,470 would receive a payment of $350. More than 2.7 million Minnesota households would receive a Walz Check under this proposal.

Advance Workforce Development

The Walz-Flanagan budget invests in effective, equity-centered workforce development strategies to increase prosperity and economic vitality for Minnesotans statewide, especially in industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor propose a $1 billion investment to provide payments to frontline workers and a $115 million investment to retain those who provide life-sustaining care for people with disabilities, older adults, people with behavioral health needs, and people experiencing homelessness. They also propose critical investments to revitalize the health care workforce, expand dual-training programs for high-need career areas like manufacturing, agriculture, health care, and information technology, and advance technology re-skilling training. The Walz-Flanagan budget invests in the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State systems to help maintain the state’s reputation as a national leader in research and innovation by addressing the rising cost of attendance to make higher education more attainable. Additionally, the budget invests $15 million in one-time funding to modernize the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s workforce system to best serve Minnesota jobseekers with upgraded digital tools that bring the resources Minnesotans can get in-person, virtually.

Increase Educational Opportunities

The Walz-Flanagan budget recommends $10 million annually to expand rigorous coursework and career and technical education for historically underserved students and students in Greater Minnesota. It also recommends a $15 million investment in the Tech Youth Training program – to prepare the future of our workforce, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students and youth to meet the demands of Minnesota’s growing tech industry and leave the program with connections to employer ready to hire into the highest-paying career tracks in the state.

Lower Costs for Consumers

In order to permanently lower home energy bills and ensure more Minnesotans can succeed in the 21st century economy, Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan propose additional investment in the Weatherization Assistance Program, which will save money and save energy for about 7,000 income-eligible Minnesotans by making their homes more energy efficient and safer. The proposal permanently lowers home energy costs by 20-30% for Minnesotans who pay at least two times higher for energy bills than the average household. It also reduces demands on the state’s overall energy infrastructure.

Cut Taxes for Families and Small Businesses

Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan propose reducing taxes for families and small businesses to help level the playing field for the middle class and allow workers to keep more of their income. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s budget makes a one-time investment of $2.73 billion to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which would prevent pandemic-related tax increases for businesses. To provide tax cuts for middle-class families with child care costs, the budget recognizes the challenges of the current environment by increasing the income threshold and maximum credit amount for Minnesota’s Dependent Care Credit, providing tax cuts to more Minnesota taxpayers. This proposal would also update Minnesota’s Newborn Credit to be available for all taxpayers regardless of marital status. Additionally, the budget proposes to increase eligibility for Minnesota’s K-12 Education Credit to ensure families and students are able to afford the supplies necessary to get a world-class Minnesota education.

Ensure Broadband for Access for Every Minnesotan

The Walz-Flanagan budget invests $170 million to finish the job of bringing border-to-border broadband access to all Minnesotans. Over the past two years, the need for high-speed, high-quality broadband has grown dramatically. Through the past several years of the state’s border-to-border broadband program, about 93% of Minnesota households have reliable broadband. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s investment, which would remain a competitive matching fund grant program, would finally pave the way for achieving the state’s goal of providing every Minnesotan with reliable broadband.

Foster Business Development Statewide

To prioritize economic growth and build on Minnesota’s existing ecosystem of high-tech, high innovation companies, Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan recommend allocating $7 million for the Angel Tax Credit in FY23 and $10 million in FY24-25. The program is Minnesota’s primary economic development tool to assist early-stage businesses engaged in technological innovation by providing a tax credit to investors or investment funds that make an equity investment. The Governor and Lieutenant Governors also propose investing $5 million in the Launch Minnesota program to expand supports for our startup ecosystem and launch an accelerator to help startups scale in Minnesota.

Support Farmers and Livestock Producers

Agriculture is one-fifth of Minnesota’s economy – that means investing in the futures of farmers and livestock producers to support a strong ag economy supports a strong Minnesota economy. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor are proposing an investment of $10 million to help Minnesota farmers and livestock producers who suffered losses caused by the severe drought this past growing season, including $5 million in rapid response grants to livestock producers and specialty crop growers and $5 million for the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan Program. The Walz-Flanagan Budget proposes $3 million to support and expand the state’s overall livestock processing capacity, $3 million to help small to medium-sized meat processors attract and retain employees who conduct the critical work of maintaining our food supply, and $3 million to help small to medium-sized meat processors attract and retain employees who conduct the critical work of maintaining our food supply.

Minnesotans from across the state also shared their support for Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan’s plan to expand economic opportunity:  

“We are pleased by Governor Walz’s budget announcement today. Several key components align with our strategic goals to keep Medical Alley The Global Epicenter of Health Innovation and Care,” said Roberta Dressen, CEO of Medical Alley Association. “The Governor’s funding of the broadband initiative will complete the job of providing baseline speed across the state, a key part of healthcare transformation. The additional funding, and the now permanent status of the Angel Tax Credit, along with additional funding for LaunchMN, and the funding of the unemployment insurance fund through the state surplus rather than through tax increases, will continue to position Minnesota as the state where entrepreneurs will locate to innovate and to conduct business. Finally, increased funding for technical jobs training, especially for people of color, will support the goals of a diverse and competent workforce for Medical Alley’s businesses. The Medical Alley Association has long advocated for each of these issues and appreciates the support from the Governor’s office.”

“Land O’Lakes is grateful to see that Governor Tim Walz is making a significant investment in expanding broadband access for all Minnesotans,” said Teddy Bekele, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Land O’Lakes, Inc. “As we have long said, broadband access is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity in today’s economy and everyday life. Whether it is for virtual learning to support their families, remote work, or to power the technology supporting critical agricultural operations, this investment will make a real impact for our businesses and communities across the state.”

“The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition is very pleased that Gov. Walz has proposed this historic investment in broadband funding,” said Jay Trusty, Chair of the Rural Broadband Coalition. “Closing the digital divide is one of the most pressing issues of our time and this investment help will level the playing field for rural communities across the state.”

“Minnesota businesses that have poured their hearts into keeping their doors open and employees working over the past two years greatly appreciate Governor Walz’s proposal to eliminate the state’s UI debt and restore the UI fund. We encourage the legislature to promptly take up this measure when the session begins and pass it as soon as possible to avoid an unnecessary tax hike on businesses in the midst of the continuing recovery,” said President and CEO of Minneapolis Regional Chamber Jonathan Weinhagen. “We are also pleased to see the Governor’s robust recommendation to fund and deploy broadband across the entire state. Our metro and rural areas are interconnected and we all do better when we have modern technology that brings us closer together. These budget proposals help strengthen our foundation for further economic growth and position our state for even more success.”

“Countless working people across multiple sectors and in every corner of Minnesota have put themselves on the front lines of the pandemic for nearly two years, many going without pay when forced to quarantine at home. Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan understand why it’s so important these workers should be recognized and compensated for the extraordinary work they continue to do and the sacrifices they make,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy. “Workers have waited far too long; lawmakers need to act quickly this session to get dollars into our frontline heroes’ hands.”

“We applaud Governor Walz’s plan to dedicate a portion of the state’s budget surplus to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. Without this action, Minnesota businesses could face double-digit payroll tax increases in the midst of existing challenges including supply chain disruptions, inflation, and severe workforce shortages. The plan also ensures that the unemployment fund will be able to support those workers who need it in the future,” said Executive Director of Minnesota Business Partnership Charlie Weaver. “The Governor’s plan to replenish the UI Trust Fund is a win for Minnesota’s businesses, workers, and the state’s economy.”

“I’m thankful Governor Walz wants to set aside $1 billion to help respect and pay frontline workers like me who never got to work from home. This surplus was built on the backs of working people who showed up every day and getting $1,500 checks would be a big deal for people like me,” said Troy Bowman, an essential worker who is a member of SEIU Local 26 who lives in Minneapolis. “I’m one of the people who have been called ‘essential’ during this pandemic, but I’m going to be honest with you that my experience has felt more like those in power view me as expendable. This would be a step to make this right.” 

“It’s been a tough 2+ years for those of us on the frontline of the health care field. We’ve sacrificed so much to keep Minnesotans safe and healthy. We’re still dealing with the stress of understaffing while most of us haven’t received any COVID pay despite being called ‘heroes’ by those in power,” said Brianne Bernini, an emergency center tech and member of the executive board of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “The $1,500 hero checks proposed in Governor Walz’s budget would be a nice recognition for those of us who have given our all during this horrible time.”

“The Minnesota Telecom Alliance (MTA) and the 41 rural broadband providers we represent applaud Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan for this bold step to ensure that Minnesota achieves true border to border broadband,” said Brent Christensen, President and CEO, Minnesota Telecom Alliance.  “We would also like to thank DEED Commissioner Steve Grove and Office of Broadband Development Executive Director Angie Dickison for their continued support as MTA members work to serve some of the hardest to serve parts of our State.”

“Pleased to see the Governor put forward these recommendations. They are hugely impactful in demonstrating the State of Minnesota’s sustained commitment and partnership to the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Jodi Hubler, Launch Minnesota Advisory Board Chair. “These programs provide the firm foundation to attract, build and grow business in our state. Ensuring not only survival but ability to thrive here.”

“Businesses in the Duluth region of Northeastern Minnesota have been resilient and creative throughout the pandemic. This unwavering spirit has allowed them to continue to serve their customers and keep their employees on the payroll. Yet, challenges remain. Consequently, we are in strong support of Governor Walz’s proposal to restore the UI Trust Fund as it shows his deep appreciation for businesses across the state,” said Matt Baumgartner, President, Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. “Without this action, many businesses might find the additional tax hike to restore the UI Trust Fund as the tipping point during our ongoing recovery. When this session begins, we encourage swift action on this proposal as the March 15th deadline looms near.

“Additionally, access to broadband continues to limit families, businesses, community development, and even healthcare in our area. Therefore, we are pleased to see the Governor’s proposal to deeply fund broadband across Minnesota,” continued Matt Baumgartner. “We applaud the Governor’s action to deploy modern technology that will bring us closer together and open new doors for economic activity, education, and community health.”

“If we learned anything from the comprehensive pivot to online over the last two years, it’s that internet access no longer is a luxury – it’s an essential,” said B Kyle, President and CEO, St. Paul Area Chamber. “Access to broadband simply must be accessible across the entire state. A robust investment in completing our broadband infrastructure will ensure all Minnesotans can participate in the recovery ahead.”

“Youthprise is pleased to see an unprecedented level of proposed investment in creating a pipeline for youth to secure jobs in the tech industry,” Marcus Pope, President of Youthprise. “This program will benefit young people as well as our business community. This is a win-win for Minnesota.”

“I greatly appreciate the Governor’s bold vision and budget proposals announced today, many of which build off the work of the Council on Economic Expansion. Throughout its first phase of work, the Council worked hard to craft recommendations that address Minnesota’s deep equity challenges and economic growth opportunities,” said Paul Williams, President and CEO, Project for Pride in Living. “The Governor’s budget will help to build a thriving economy that will help everyone in our state emerge stronger.”

“It is gratifying to see the Council of Economic Expansion recommendations, which were aimed at supporting a brighter, more inclusive future for all Minnesotans, so closely aligned with the Governor’s comprehensive budget proposal,” said Jeff Ettinger, Current Chair of Hormel Foundation, Former Chairman of the Board and CEO, Hormel. “We believe these priorities will support Minnesota’s future financial growth and expand opportunities for Minnesotans to participate in it.”

“Replenishing the UI Trust Fund is incredibly important; UI helped both employees and employers during an unprecedented time in our history. Rising costs and supply chain issues are new pressures being placed on employers during a time when they are working to recover from the hardships faced over the past couple of years. Not placing the UI burden on employers makes sense,” said Traci Tapani, Co-President, Wyoming Machine.

“We have an incredible opportunity right now to get border to border broadband in Minnesota.  As a business owner and member of the Governor’s Council on Economic Expansion, I fully support using available funds to get this done,” continued Traci Tapani. “Access to broadband impacts every area of our lives and we need to ensure that all Minnesotans have the access they need.”

“Red Wing Shoe Company supports the broadband and Unemployment Insurance initiatives outlined by Governor Walz. These investments in people and capabilities support the communities, employees, and customers across the State of Minnesota where we live and work,” said Mark Urdahl, President and CEO, Red Wing Shoes. “Ultimately these investments allow Red Wing Shoe Company and other employers to address the needs of today’s modern workforce and business environment.”

“I believe the investments for workforce development outlined within the Walz Administration’s proposed budget are not only in alignment with the needs of our state as a whole, but for our community as well. I am heartened by the obvious strategic thinking behind the Governor’s proposal, and the work of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, to utilize state resources towards bolstering these critical industries,” said Dr. Joe Hobot, Hunkpapa Lakota, President and CEO of the American Indian OIC. “I also believe that such investments will not only serve to further grow the state economy but will simultaneously uplift members within communities of color – and specifically the indigenous community – into better, more stable careers that provide meaningful wages.”

“This is good news, particularly in our changing economy where remote working and telehealth are emerging with greater prominence,” said Rod Young, President and CEO, Delta Dental Minnesota. “This significant investment in broadband infrastructure and services will bring greater access to jobs, education and healthcare services, for all Minnesotans.”  

“The Minnesota Technology Association fully supports the investments proposed by Governor Walz as important next steps in building a stronger, and more inclusive, tech ecosystem in Minnesota,” said Jeff Tollefson, President and CEO, Minnesota Technology Association. “In particular, we are pleased to see additional funding to prepare more youth for tech careers and equip unemployed/under-employed adults with the digital skills needed to succeed in an increasingly tech-driven economy. We look forward to partnering with DEED in the implementation of these initiatives as we work together to make Minnesota a better place to live and work for all.”

“We wholeheartedly endorse Governor Walz’s plan to use a portion of the state’s budget surplus to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, without placing additional burdens on Minnesota employers who continue to navigate the pandemic and manage supply chain challenges,” said Jay Lund, Chairman and CEO of Andersen Corporation. “Andersen also strongly supports the Governor’s proposal to invest a portion of the surplus to make broadband accessible statewide. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, we’ve learned that reliable broadband service is critical to the economic, emotional and physical health and wellbeing of all Minnesotans.”