PoliticsFrom Status Quo to Policy Victories, Groups Review Special...

From Status Quo to Policy Victories, Groups Review Special Session

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Minnesota has a new budget in place, after lawmakers finished a marathon special session as their deadline expired.

From rural areas to underserved neighborhoods, groups monitoring for helpful policies found things they like, but also some frustration. The two-year, $52 billion budget includes such items as direct aid for people affected by the pandemic, along with a boost in education funding.

Julie Tesch, president and CEO of the Center for Rural Policy and Development, noted investments in workforce development, and said enhancing job training in Greater Minnesota will be helpful.

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“Even before we went into the pandemic, we had a worker shortage,” Tesch recounted. “And there’s a common misperception across the state, both urban and rural, that, you know, we need jobs, jobs, jobs; when in fact, we need workers, workers, workers.”

There’s nearly $37 million for employment and training programs for each of the next two years. She also cited efforts to improve the child-care system as a crucial need for many communities.

Police reform was included in the public-safety bill, but racial-justice advocates say the compromise left out key provisions. They also lament the budget’s exclusion of a paid family leave program.

Elianne Farhat, executive director of Take Action MN, said those were among the priorities for her group. She added while the budget crafted by lawmakers wasn’t a real setback for families and workers, it didn’t propel them forward, either.

“The good news is that we didn’t go backwards, and we maintained the status quo,” Farhat acknowledged. “The bad news is that we maintained the status quo.”

She added the state is investing significant money in addressing climate-change matters, but contended it is nowhere near enough to mitigate harmful effects.

Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz initially pushed for tax hikes on the wealthy to fund certain ideas, but it fell by the wayside as revenue projections improved, along with the arrival of more federal COVID relief. For GOP leaders, the budget highlight is a tax-relief package.

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