ST PAUL, Minn. — Governor Tim Walz Wednesday formally announced a $2,000 rebate check plan that he'd hinted at just days earlier. And, for the first time this year, House Democrats got behind the idea of returning a big chunk of the $9 billion surplus in direct checks.
The governor proposes sending $2,000 checks to all joint income tax filers who earn up to $273,470 per year, and single filers who make up to $164,000 annually. His staff estimates at least 2.7 million households would receive a check if the legislature will go along with it.
Walz said it would help Minnesota families deal with historic inflation levels and staggering gas prices.
"The impact today would be 421 gallons of gas, 6,000 diapers, 900 cartons of eggs, a month or month and a half or two months rent," Walz told reporters.
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The governor gained an important ally in the form of DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman. She urged Senate Republicans to come back for a special session to pass the checks and finish work on several major bills that were still stuck in committee when the 2022 session ended a month ago.
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Public safety, transportation, special education, nursing homes and the public works construction bonding bill were all left hanging when time ran out May 23. After four weeks of private talks Senate Republicans called off further negotiations, saying they couldn't agree to the amount of spending Democrats were proposing.
"We need Senate Republicans to put election year politics aside until much later in the fall, come back to the table and join us in getting the work done so we can help Minnesotans," Rep. Hortman told reporters.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said one-time checks don't match the Republican goal of making permanent cuts to income tax rates.
"Minnesotans won't be fooled by one-time, temporary checks. There is not one penny of tax relief in anything the governor is proposing," Rep. Daudt told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, who holds most of the cards when it comes to a special session, called the Walz Checks an election-year stunt. He repeated his slogan for the session, that Republicans want permanent cuts to payroll taxes and total exemption for Social Security benefits.
"This isn't about the election in the fall. This is about working together and doing what's right for the people of the state of Minnesota."
He said he'd entertain coming back for a special session to consider the same tax relief bill the GOP-controlled Senate passed in April.
Walz told reporters that Miller wasn't willing to negotiate for a middle ground and that the proverbial goalposts kept being moved by Republicans. It left Walz with the impression that the GOP wants to wait until next session to deal with the surplus and tax relief.
"This is about saying 'no' to any deal," Walz asserted.
The governor acknowledged that on a macroeconomic level rebate checks can heat up the economy and contribute to inflation, but he said $4 billion in consumer spending here in Minnesota would be a drop in the bucket compared to all of the national and global factors that have caused consumer prices to soar.
"Simply walking away and sitting on $7 billion in surplus is not leadership. It is simply messaging, political messaging. It makes no sense."
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