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Tug-of-War Continues Over MN State Budget Priorities

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In addition to police accountability bills, Minnesota lawmakers are debating the state's next two-year budget. (Adobe Stock)
In addition to police accountability bills, Minnesota lawmakers are debating the state's next two-year budget. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
May 3, 2021

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- Minnesota's divided Legislature enters the home stretch of the current session with a new budget still needing approval.

Differences between the House version and the Senate version include taxes and spending levels, and several groups say vulnerable families could be better served with more revenue.

Some unions and advocacy groups back proposals largely pushed by the DFL-led House and Gov. Tim Walz, including a new tax bracket for the state's highest earners.

LeiLani Hauge, behavior analyst at Community Behavioral Health Hospital in Fergus Falls, said despite the critical services her facility provides, general access to care is limited.

"Greater Minnesota needs more beds in facilities like ours," Hauge asserted. "We need the support to continue this work."

Hauge, who's a member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, said boosting access can better help people in mental-health facilities return to their communities. Senate Republicans are holding firm against tax increases, saying they could harm the state's economy as it recovers from the pandemic. The budget deadline is May 17.

Kimberly Jones, with the Barbershop and Black Congregation Cooperative, argued with more awareness of Minnesota's racial disparities, higher earners need to do their part to establish equity for marginalized communities.

"We also need to move forward to fully funding equitable school systems, affordable child care, livable wages, ample health care and rent stabilization in communities most affected by these disparities," Jones contended.

However, leaders in the GOP-controlled Senate say the focus should be on providing relief to business owners still reeling from the pandemic. They point to the state's projected surplus and additional federal relief as reasons not to raise taxes.

Both chambers are about $1 billion apart in spending levels.

Disclosure: Minnesota Association of Professional Employees contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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