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Child care, housing, broadband access: Walz administration outlines sweeping plan to grow Minnesota's economy

The governor shared the roadmap days after the state recorded the lowest unemployment rate of any state ever and months before he was expected to appear on the ballot for reelection. The broad-based proposal would boost spending to child care, health care, transportation infrastructure and other programs.

Gov. Tim Walz
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, presents his Council on Economic Expansion's roadmap for growing the state's economy over the next decade.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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STACY, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz and several members of his cabinet on Wednesday, July 27, announced their sweeping 10-year plan to boost the state's economy by building out access to child care, health care, housing, transportation and broadband infrastructure and adding job training programs.

Walz charged a 15-member Council on Economic Expansion with creating a roadmap for the state's economic advancement last year. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Walz asked the panel of leaders of labor groups, businesses and nonprofit organizations to lay out a plan that was "equitable, inclusive, sustainable, resilient" and focused on Minnesota's people.

Inside a sheet metal production company in Chisago County, members of the council laid out their findings and proposals to grow the state's economy over the next decade. Their broad proposal would:

  • boost teacher pay in the state;
  • boost funding to police groups and add accountability measures;
  • aim to increase the number of businesses owned by people of color in Minnesota;
  • and market the state as a great place to live and work.

"We are truly at an inflection point coming out of what I think has been multiple pandemics, we've only seen our rates of disparities get worse during those pandemics, particularly for our Black, brown, Indigenous and broader communities of color," council co-chair Paul Williams said. Williams is president and CEO of Minneapolis-based nonprofit Project for Pride in Living. "Our strong sense is that investing in the core is actually what leads to economic growth long term."
The pitch comes as the state comes out of the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the unemployment rate in Minnesota reached the lowest point of any state ever last week. Walz and members of his cabinet also delivered the proposal a little more than three months before the general election. Many of the proposals mirrored supplemental budget provisions that the Walz administration put forward earlier this year and that ultimately did not get through the divided Legislature.

In June, Minnesota had the lowest state unemployment rate ever recorded in the U.S., and that means workers are harder than ever to find. Harder — but not impossible.

And they said the proposal lays the groundwork for how the state can build on its economic success moving forward, even after his administration comes to a close.

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"This is not about the job that I and the lieutenant governor currently occupy. There is no one person that is going to have the ability as we see a changing global economy to have the answer," Walz said. "We must keep our eye on the long-term plan that deals in data and facts."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen on Wednesday said Walz was "tone deaf" and that the contents of the proposal didn't meet concerns that Minnesotans were experiencing.

“What struck me most about Gov. Walz’s 28-page economic plan is that it didn’t mention the words 'inflation,' 'gas prices,' or 'utility costs' once,” Jensen said in a news release. “Gov. Walz proved once again he’s tone deaf to the plight of working Minnesota families and isn’t up to the task of leading in the moment."

Walz said he just received the report on Wednesday and planned to pore over it before deciding how the state could start implementing the recommendations. And many of the components could be considered during a special legislative session this year, he said. The governor said waiting the next regular legislative session until January likely would not address pressing issues that could help the state's economy sink or surge.

"This should inform our decisions from budgeting to policy and it should make us take a look at what is working to double down on and what should stop," Walz said. "We can't wait until next May to deal with these things ... it increases my sense of urgency to come back and that we get a special session to address the issues that our communities are telling us to solve."

Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove also said his department would start implementing the suggestions, beginning with steps that could bring more workers into Minnesota's labor force. This summer DEED has started a campaign to help bring previously overlooked groups like immigrant workers, people with disabilities, people over age 55 and formerly incarcerated people to build up Minnesota's labor force.

"In a moment of disruption like this, we have to be looking at the long term, we can't just be looking at the year or next quarter," Grove said. "Getting the momentum by doing the things the report says will help."

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSJOBS
Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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