STACY, Minnesota — Governor Tim Walz and several members of his cabinet announced their sweeping 10-year plan Wednesday to boost the state’s economy by improving access to child care, health care, housing, transportation and broadband infrastructure, and creating jobs. training programs.
Walz tasked a 15-member Economic Expansion Council 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 from labor groups, businesses and nonprofits to come up with a plan “ equitable, inclusive, sustainable, resilient” and focused on the people of Minnesota.
At a sheet metal production company in Chisago County, council members presented their findings and proposals for developing the state’s economy over the next decade. Their general proposition:
- Raise teachers’ salaries in the state
- Increase funding for police groups and add accountability measures
- Aim to increase the number of businesses owned by people of color in Minnesota
- Present the state as a great place to live and work.
“We are really at an inflection point coming out of what I think have been multiple pandemics. We have only seen our disparity rates worsen during these pandemics, especially for our Black, Brown, Indigenous and broader communities of color,” Council Co-Chair Paul Williams said. Williams is president and CEO of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Project for Pride in Living. “Our strong feeling is that investing in the core is actually what leads to long-term economic growth.”
The pitch comes as the state emerges from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and Minnesota’s unemployment rate hit the lowest point of any U.S. state last week. Walz and members of his cabinet also introduced the proposal just over three months before the general election. Many of the proposals mirrored additional budget provisions the Walz administration introduced earlier this year, which were ultimately not passed by the divided legislature.
They said the proposal lays the foundation for how the state can build on its economic success moving forward, even after its administration ends.
“It’s not about the job that me and the lieutenant governor are doing right now. There is no one who will have the ability, as we see a changing global economy, to have the answer,” Walz said. “We need to keep an eye on the long-term plan that deals with data and facts.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen said Wednesday that Walz was “deaf” and that the content of the proposal did not address the concerns of Minnesotans.
“What struck me most about Governor Walz’s 28-page economic plan was that he never once mentioned the words ‘inflation,’ ‘gasoline prices,’ or ‘costs. utilities,'” Jensen said in a press release. “Governor. Walz has proven once again that he is deaf to the plight of working families in Minnesota and not up to the task of leading in the moment.
Walz said he just received the report on Wednesday and planned to review it before deciding how the state could begin implementing the recommendations. And many items could be considered in a special legislative session this year, he said. The governor said waiting for the next regular legislative session in January is unlikely to resolve pressing issues that could help the state’s economy sink or rise.
“It should inform our decisions, from budgeting to policy, and it should inspire us to look at what’s working to double down and what should stop,” Walz said. “We can’t wait until next May to address these issues…it increases my sense of urgency to return, and that we have a special session to address the issues our communities are asking us to address.”
Department of Jobs and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove also said his department would begin implementing the suggestions, starting with measures that could attract more workers to Minnesota’s workforce. This summer, DEED launched a campaign to help bring previously overlooked groups like immigrant workers, people with disabilities, people over 55, and formerly incarcerated people into Minnesota’s workforce.
“In a time of disruption like this, we have to look long-term, we can’t just look at the year or the next quarter,” Grove said. “Getting the momentum by doing the things the report says will help.”