Walz pulls no punches on school funding plan

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz addresses a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 in St. Paul, Minn. where he said a conference call with drug company executives has left him hopeful that the Legislature will pass a bill to address the opioid crisis that he can sign. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

ST PAUL, Minn. (KARE) The Walz team Tuesday wrapped up a statewide tour touting a plan to boost spending on public schools and higher education.

The final stop was a preschool classroom at Meadow Lake Elementary in New Hope, where Gov. Tim Walz explained the importance of investing in early education.

"If these children are not in this facility that has incredible lifelong implications for them. It has incredible implications for Minneota, both in employment and the cost to us in social services and corrections."

Gov. Walz is asking lawmakers to increase aid to schools by $733 million over the next two years, plus $158 million for higher education which includes student grants. While education spending has increased in recent years, districts have struggled to keep pace with inflation, which has forced staff layoffs and program cuts.

The governor noted his entire "One Minnesota" budget is meant to address the needs of those students and their families in a holistic manner, with simultaneous investments in transit, housing, broadband and health care.

Walz say he's been frustrated that so many elements of his plan met with instant rejection by Republicans who control the Minnesota senate. He was disappointed to see his plans for education, transportation and efforts to curb gun violence were all declared "dead on arrival" by GOP leaders.

He said his budget reflects what he heard on the campaign trail from people across the state, and what he's heard since then in his travels.

"The 'dead on arrival' stuff is coming from a group of people who were not on the ballot in 2018, who did not stand in front of the voters, who did not run," Walz said, referring to the members of the Minnesota Senate who were were elected to four-year terms in 2016.

He also lamented how quickly the recreational cannabis proposal died, citing Monday's vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to effectively kill the marijuana legalization for the next two years. All six of the nine Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, while all three Democrats voted for it.

After the hearing the chair of the Judiciary Committee revealed that Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has asked him to hold off on any hearings on gun control legislation -- universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders.

"There’s a very out-of-touch group in this country and they seem to be concentrated heavily in the Minnesota Senate right now," Walz told reporters.

Sen. Gazelka issued the following statement in response:

"The Governor has a right to his opinion to legalize marijuana, but it is not a priority of the Minnesota Senate. Our priorities are lowering healthcare costs, fixing our roads and bridges, and balancing the budget without raising taxes."