More than Walz checks: A deeper dive into the governor’s budget

Walz at podium
Gov. Tim Walz's budget proposal includes items big and small across the rest of the two-year, $65 billion plan that could attract less attention on their way to becoming reality. 
Tim Pugmire | MPR News 2022

Upcoming clashes over the budget proposed by Gov. Tim Walz will certainly narrow from the thousands of pages it entails to a few key areas. 

His proposals to ramp up education spending, implement paid leave and provide tax rebates or raise taxes around certain stock sales will consume many hours of debate.

A view of a football stadium
The Minnesota Vikings could soon be playing in a paid off U.S. Bank Stadium, pictured in Sept. 2021, if lawmakers approve a provision in the budget proposed by Gov. Tim Walz.
Adam Bettcher | Getty Images 2021

But there are items big and small across the rest of the two-year, $65 billion plan that could attract less attention on their way to becoming reality. 

Here are some:

Audits

Several new grant controls and oversight initiatives would go forward.

Gain a Better Understanding of Today

MPR News is not just a listener supported source of information, it's a resource where listeners are supported. We take you beyond the headlines to the world we share in Minnesota. Become a sustainer today to fuel MPR News all year long.

That includes a new Statewide Internal Audit Office within the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget but working across many agencies. The team will be on the lookout for fraud, waste and abuse and develop better protocols.

A man in front of a sign speaking into a microphone
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan released more details of their budget proposal at a Daikin innovation and manufacturing hub in Plymouth, Minn. on Thursday.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

Behavior disorder care

A reshaping of the state’s largest agency, the Department of Human Services, would also occur. Direct Care and Treatment of about 12,000 people who are civilly committed, who have severe mental illness or are prone to behavioral disorders would be handled by a new department.

The goal is to better focus the missions of those programs and the human services agency, which is responsible for child protection, helping the elderly, and aiding people with disabilities and substance disorders.

The budget also includes tens of millions of dollars for mental health crisis intervention and improved access to residential and outpatient behavioral health services for adults and children.

Cannabis expungement board

In addition to clearing a path to legalization of adult-use marijuana, the budget would pay for a new board to streamline the process for wiping past convictions off records.

Some expungements for low-level offenses would be automatic, while the board would work on convictions that need extra examination and lead to possible resentencing.

Cybersecurity

Many state agencies would see infusions to shore up their defenses against hackers or online intrusions.

The state’s main tech agency, Minnesota IT Services, would receive about $33 million to unlock federal money geared toward addressing cyber-threats at the state level and with help to local entities.

Driver’s licensing

A new online renewal program for driver’s license would be set up. Every other renewal cycle, people could undertake the task online starting in July 2024.

For new-to-Minnesota drivers, they would no longer have to take a knowledge test; officials say 30 percent of applicants fail the test now at least twice.

Standard fees for all identification credentials would rise by $6 (they range now from $21 to $55 based on the class level and type). Another 75-cent fee for REAL IDs that had lapsed would be reinstated to cover costs tied to processing those applications.

Fugitive unit

A new special investigations unit within the Department of Corrections would be started.

The unit would assist local law enforcement with warrants and intelligence efforts related to people on supervised release who go astray.

Other additional prison agency funds would be used on community monitoring, reentry programs, pathways to employment for those leaving prison and initiatives that are meant to reduce recidivism.

Health inequities

New Offices of African American Health and American Indian Health would be set up within the Department of Health.

They would advise agency leadership on issues of health inequities that disproportionately hit those communities. They would also work to foster career pathways to expand diversity in the health care sector.

Outdoors push

A $115 million infusion into an outdoor recreation experience would be used to upgrade facilities on public lands, modernize campgrounds, add extra boating access, build up fisheries and improve habitat.

It’s all under the umbrella of the DNR’s “Get Out MORE” push. Separately, the DNR is seeking to retrofit planes in its aviation enforcement fleet and purchase a new one.

Post-COVID care

More than $16 million per year would be used to develop health care strategies to head off training bottlenecks and medical supply shortages seen early in COVID-19. It will include maintenance of a supply stockpile and a response team to update health emergency plans.

More than $3 million each year would be used to study and help people deal with symptoms of long COVID.

Separately, the Department of Health would manage $15 million in grants for health screening and care management in urban and rural communities with a focus on catch-up care.

It’s a recognition that many people delayed care during the pandemic and might need help or a nudge in getting preventative treatment.

Primary care study

The Walz budget would fund a $500,000 study that could have much bigger ramifications later.

The feasibility study would analyze the costs, benefits and potential structure of a program to offer free primary care to all Minnesotans, regardless of their insurance plan.

The goal would be to encourage care that often comes with out-of-pocket costs and, when ignored, can lead to more significant ailments.

Public safety helicopter

The Department of Public Safety would purchase and equip a new, twin-engine helicopter that can be used in searches and rescues, monitoring street racing and providing traffic safety support.

The agency currently has two single-engine helicopters in its fleet. The Department of Transportation would replace two of its aircraft as well with a $7 million cost.

Retirement reconsideration

A $5 million annual program would be used on return-to-work efforts for 55-plus Minnesotans who retired but are interested in filling gaps.

It could be used for job placement services, training, expedited credentials or other essentials to career reboots in hard-to-fill areas.

Stone Arch Bridge

The historic Minneapolis bridge across the Mississippi River, which is open to pedestrian and bike traffic, would be repaired.

The budget includes $5 million to match federal money toward a project that could eventually cost up to $30 million.

Three joggers run on a stone arch bridge, a waterfall in the background
The Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis would get a upgrade if lawmakers approve an item in Gov. Tim Walz's proposed budget. It's just one of many spending provisions in the governor's proposal.
Ben Hovland | MPR News 2022

Teacher recruitment

Various initiatives across multiple agencies would spur recruitment of new teachers.

There is just shy of $15 million for stipends for student teachers to make them more likely to stay on the career track. Another $3 million per year would be put toward grants to steer teachers toward parts of the state or academic disciplines where needs are acute, with more loan repayment help also provided.

A smaller amount would be put into scholarships for people pursuing early childhood education. A one-shot $7 million allocation would go to grants to get secondary students on course for teaching professions down the line.

Tourism promotion

The proposed budget sets aside about $12 million for tourism grants. Some could be used to bid for large-scale sporting events and other premier gatherings. Tribal nations would get a slice to promote tourism.

Another $12 million would establish a new division called “Explore Minnesota for Business” that would market Minnesota in other states through an advertising campaign.

Veterans homes

Three new veterans homes scheduled to open this year in Preston, Bemidji and Montevideo would receive the operational fund they need.

Other initiatives related to veterans homelessness or housing supports are included in the budget as well. The post Sept. 11 veterans bonus program that began last year would be augmented with $22 million more to meet the demand and resolve qualification issues.

Vikings stadium debt

The remaining $377 million in state and city debt for U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Vikings play, would be paid off many years early. By doing that sooner, it will draw down a stadium reserve fund but save the public about $30 million in yearly interest costs.