See more of the story

Myron Frans, the state’s top finance official, announced Wednesday that he is leaving Gov. Tim Walz’s administration to take a senior leadership position at the University of Minnesota.

Jim Schowalter, who previously served in Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, was named as Frans’ successor. As Dayton’s commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, Schowalter helped resolve a $6.2 billion state budget deficit. He also served as the state budget director under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Frans has spent nearly a decade helping shape Minnesota budgets and is departing as the state is staring down a projected multibillion-dollar budget deficit resulting from the economic slowdown of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Walz’s commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, Frans guided Minnesota budgets and oversaw human resources and labor negotiations. He was one of only a few commissioners that Walz kept on from the Dayton administration.

He will become the university’s senior vice president of finance and operations, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

“Higher education has been the pathway for me to wonderful opportunities and fulfilling careers. It’s an honor — and a dream — to now have a role in supporting the educational experience for others,” Frans said in a statement Wednesday.

Walz credited Frans with putting the state “in a stronger position to weather the fiscal consequences of this pandemic.” He also praised Schowalter’s experience in governance, saying his appointment comes at a “critical time for our state.”

Minnesota is grappling with a projected $2.4 billion budget deficit in the current two-year budget cycle and a $4.7 billion deficit in the 2022 and 2023 cycle.

Despite the budget hole, Frans and Walz have said the state is in a comparatively good position to weather the downturn after building up its reserves over the past decade. The last budget projection in May indicated that the state has nearly $2.4 billion in reserves and another $350 million in its cash flow account.

Frans has been a high-profile member of both the Walz and Dayton administrations. The soft-spoken commissioner has been a key player in the closed-door work that happens in the final days of legislative sessions, when lawmakers must hammer out budget deals.

A longtime tax lawyer, he started with Dayton’s team as revenue commissioner in 2011, also a time when the state had a huge budget deficit. He became Dayton’s go-to administrator for tax policy before he shifted to Management and Budget commissioner in 2014.