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Here's a quick look at what's in Gov. Tim Walz's first budget request

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, presented his first budget proposal, which included a gas tax hike and more funding for schools. Dana Ferguson / FORUM NEWS SERVICE

ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday, Feb. 19, presented his first budget proposal which came with a $49.5 billion price tag for the next two years. It includes a boost for Minnesota schools, local communities and health care programs.

And to fund those programs, as well as a transportation and infrastructure package, the DFL governor planned to use a projected $1.5 billion surplus and new taxes.

Democratic lawmakers were largely supportive of the proposal while Republicans, who hold a key two-seat advantage in the Senate, said they'd oppose several pieces.

So what exactly is in the budget? Here's a quick look at what Walz proposed as part of his first spending plan and what people are saying about it.

20 cent per gallon hike on the gas tax

What's likely to become the largest sticking point in Walz's budget plan was a proposed 20 cent per gallon gasoline tax set to be rolled out over the next two years. The increase would bump up the tax almost 70 percent compared to the current rate.

Walz said the hike was key to funding improvements on crumbling roads and bridges. And without it, the state could have a nearly $20 billion hole in transportation funds in 20 years, he said.

The tax would be implemented a nickel at a time over the next two years and after another one-year gap, the tax would be indexed to inflation. And a 0.5 percent increase in the state's vehicle registration tax, as well as a 0.325 percent increase in the motor vehicle sales tax, would also be used to help fund the governor's transportation and infrastructure package.

"This is not a pie in the sky proposal," Transportation Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher said, "this is what Minnesotans need and want."

Funding boost for schools

The former teacher also made education a top funding priority, proposing $733 million in additional money over the next two years for early learning through post-graduate programs. The largest piece of that plan, $523 million, would boost the state's general education basic formula by 3 percent in the 2019-2020 school year and by 2 percent the following year.

Walz said the additional dollars would also boost school safety efforts, offer grants for low- and middle-income students applying for college and increase the number of teachers of color and Indigenous educators working in Minnesota classrooms.

More money for Greater Minnesota projects

In what Walz deemed a historic budget for Greater Minnesota, the governor proposed a "moonshot" effort to get border-to-border high-speed internet set up in two years, planned to offer grant dollars for local economic development proposals and committed to boosting funds for local government and county program aid.

Walz also said he'd support efforts to expand mental health care in rural Minnesota spurred in large part by challenges in the farm economy and expand access to treatment for opioid addiction.

"We must ensure communities across Minnesota aren't just surviving, but they are thriving," Walz said.

What do lawmakers have to say?

In a divided Statehouse, the budget got divided responses. Democrats who control the House said they support the proposal and would likely put forth something similar when they offer their spending plan next month.

Republicans, who hold a two-seat advantage in the Senate, meanwhile said they were shocked at the proposed tax hikes and committed to opposing them.

"This uncontrolled spending will give Minnesota the reputation of being cold California," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said, referencing the tax burden in the Golden State.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt took that a step further, riffing on the governor's campaign slogan.

"This is not One Minnesota," Daudt said. "This is one expensive Minnesota."

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