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At Issue: March 24 - Gov. Walz makes slight budget proposal tweaks, hands-free cellphone bill closer to becoming law

March 24, 2019 05:45 PM

Governor Walz Makes Slight Tweaks to Budget Proposal

Gov. Tim Walz is making some adjustments to his first two-year budget proposal now that the state is expecting a smaller surplus than first anticipated. The new total for his budget is just over $49.3 billion, down about $121 million from his original budget proposal. He made the adjustments in response to news that the state is now anticipating a surplus of about $1 billion instead of $1.5 billion.

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The governor's plan makes reductions across almost all agencies, closes some tax loopholes and returns some money, originally earmarked for the state reinsurance program, back to the general fund. Walz keeps two funding mechanisms in place for his proposal - a 20 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax and a health care provider tax that is set to sunset in 2019. 

Keeping those two funding mechanisms in place will be a tough sell for Republicans at the Capitol, who favor no new tax increases and relying on existing revenue, including money from the surplus. 

Hands-Free Cell Phone Legislation Closer than Ever to Becoming State Law

The push to ban hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel in Minnesota is closer than ever to becoming law. But there are still some significant hurdles in the way.

The House passed a hands-free bill Monday after bipartisan attempts failed in previous sessions. Lawmakers are still split on some of the specifics of the bill. Some say the penalties are not harsh enough, while others say other forms of distracted driving should have been included in the bill. 

The road to hands-free only cell phone use faces a tougher challenge in the Senate. There are competing bills going before lawmakers - one creates penalties similar to drunk driving if a driver is involved in a serious or deadly crash while using a phone while driving. Another does create a hands-free only requirement. 

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Amanda Theisen

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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