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Walz signs $543 million education bill, plans to greenlight rest of $48 billion budget

Gov. Tim Walz signed into law his first budget bill surrounded by preschool students at Bruce Vento Elementary School on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service 1 / 3
Gov. Tim Walz signed into law his first budget bill surrounded by preschool students at Bruce Vento Elementary School on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service 2 / 3
Gov. Tim Walz signed into law his first budget bill surrounded by preschool students at Bruce Vento Elementary School on Thursday, May 30, 2019. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service 3 / 3

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, May 30, signed into law his first budget bill surrounded by preschool students at Bruce Vento Elementary School.

The former geography teacher approved the $543 million E-12 education spending bill that will boost funding to Minnesota public schools by 2% next year compared to current levels and another 2% in the year after. It's not as much of an increase as Walz wanted to provide for education, but it's a start, he said.

“For a budget that was a compromise budget amongst all of us, my hope is is that this stabilized, it allows us to move forward,” Walz said.

The state will help offset the growing cost of special education and pay to fund 4,000 voluntary pre-kindergarten slots that were set to expire, as part of the budget. And it will also put another $8.1 million toward American Indian tribal schools over the next four years.

With a bipartisan group of lawmakers who helped shape the bill looking on, Walz said the budgets that legislators approved in a special session last week highlight that compromise is possible in the divided Legislature.

“We proved to the rest of the country that we can come together as one of the nation’s few divided governments and we can come together, first and foremost, and put Minnesota’s values first,” Walz said.

The school library was also the backdrop a year ago to a different scene. Then-Gov. Mark Dayton stamped a veto onto the proposed omnibus spending bill, blocking dozens of proposed policies and igniting anger among Republican lawmakers.

“It’s really nice to be here for a bill signing and not a bill veto," House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said Thursday, defending a closed-door process of negotiating state budget bills that included the "leader court" including herself, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and Walz.

Walz said he planned to review and sign the remaining catch-all spending bills before the end of the week. And from there, he said he would head out across the state to discuss the budget bills with Minnesotans.

Walz says he's weighing options to supply emergency insulin

Days after lawmakers voted down last-minute proposals to provide emergency insulin supplies to Type 1 diabetics who couldn't afford the drug, Walz said he was weighing all options to make the medication available.

The proposal had previously had bipartisan, bicameral support from lawmakers heading into closed-door budget negotiations, but it fell through the cracks and was missing in the final spending bill.

Lawmakers sparred over social media about why the proposal was left out and split on the best path forward. House Democrats, who'd introduced the emergency insulin proposal this year, said lawmakers should pass the same proposal next year.

Meanwhile, five Republican state senators earlier on Thursday said they'd lead a push to draft legislation opening up access to insulin as well as to epilepsy medication for those who can't afford it. And they suggested the governor call a special session this summer to pass the bills.

“We are committed to a real solution that will truly make a difference. It is time to rise above the political votes and partisan rhetoric,” Sen. Paul Anderson, R-Plymouth, said in a news release.

Walz said he was frustrated that lawmakers didn't approve the legislation during the 2019 legislative session but would consider holding a special session to take up the issue.

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