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Walz pitches public safety spending plan to reduce crime

January 27, 2022 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday released the public safety portion of his supplemental budget featuring hundreds of millions of dollars for law enforcement agencies and community groups to reduce crime.

The Democratic governor’s public safety and health proposal would allocate $300 million over the next three years to cities, counties and towns for their law enforcement agencies, as well as additional funding to bolster departments’ investigations and incentives to recruit and retain officers.

The plan also includes money for local community groups to collaborate with their local law enforcement and funding for crime prevention to address rising crime rates statewide, among other measures.

“It’s not enough to wring your hands and say it’s unacceptable for crime, of course it’s unacceptable,” Walz said. “The victims of crime across the board deserve better but to simply say that and not use proven data and proven ways of doing it doesn’t get us there. This gets us there by listening. It gets us there by building on community.”

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Funding for the governor’s health and public safety plan — the last of a four-part rollout of his supplemental budget — would come from the state’s $7.7 projected budget surplus and just over $1 billion in leftover federal aid.

Other parts of Walz’s budget proposal include a $2.7 billion “local jobs and projects” proposal, a spending plan focused on children and families and another proposal as part of an economic opportunity plan that would send checks of $175 or $350 to more than 2.7 million Minnesota households.

Majority Senate Republicans released their own agenda earlier Wednesday, listing their top priorities as permanent tax cuts, student literacy and crime — which is shaping up to be issue for Republicans ahead of the election in November. Their public safety proposals included mandatory-minimum sentences for crimes like carjacking and repealing a five-year probation cap for most crimes that was put in place in 2020.

Republican Sen. Warren Limmer, the Senate Public Safety Committee chairman, said prosecutors ignoring low-level crimes has emboldened criminals, and GOP senators plan to introduce a proposal to limit that discretion.

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“We intend to remember the victims first before we make public policy,” Limmer, of Maple Grove, said. “The highest priority of any government is the safety of its citizens. The actions of a few prosecutors are destroying that mission.”

Bonuses for officers, pension reforms and college scholarships were also listed by Senate Republicans as ways to retain and recruit more officers. GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, of Winona, said dollar amounts for the proposals would be available in the coming weeks.

House DFL lawmakers on Monday introduced a $100 million public safety plan with proposals similar to the governor’s plan, including $40 million in grants for violence prevention by community groups and another $44 million to fund the hiring of beat cops and bolster investigations.

Democratic House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, of Golden Valley, chief author of a bill that would legalize marijuana and expunge minor cannabis convictions, thanked Walz in a statement on Wednesday for proposing funding in his plan to create a new regulatory Cannabis Management Office.

Lawmakers in the divided Legislature will attempt to agree on how to spend the surplus during the upcoming legislative session, which convenes on Monday.

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Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.