MN Senate Republicans set crime, tax cuts as top session priorities

The Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul
The Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul in June 2021. Majority Republicans in the Minnesota Senate say permanent tax cuts, longer prison sentences for violent crimes, and a focus on education basics will be their top priorities for the legislative session that starts next week.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News 2021

Longer prison sentences for violent criminals, permanent tax cuts and a focus on teaching students to read are top priorities for the legislative session that begins next week, majority Senate Republicans announced Wednesday.

New penalties for carjacking and less latitude for prosecutors and judges are key elements of the GOP crime proposal.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, the chair of the senate judiciary committee, said he doesn’t want county attorneys to ignore low-level crimes because he believes that can embolden criminals.

“The highest priority of any government is the safety of its citizens. The actions of a few prosecutors are destroying that mission,” Limmer said.

Other Republican public safety proposals are aimed at getting more police on the streets. They want incentives to attract and retain police officers, including scholarships and bonuses. 

It’s more evidence that Republicans will make crime a leading campaign issue heading into the election. 

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jeremy miller
Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

“We’re at a point right now where violent crime is out of control in our state,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller said.

“You have senior citizens getting beat up and robbed. You have carjackings happening left and right. You have  innocent people getting shot, police officers getting shot. Kids are getting shot.”

DFL House lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz are also bringing forward public safety plans ahead of the 2022 session, which begins Monday.

Walz proposed hundreds of millions in grants Wednesday as a way to reduce crime. His plan includes $300 million over three years to cities, counties and tribes to pay for local public safety needs. He also wants to help police departments recruit officers and investigate crimes, and he wants to give money to neighborhood groups to help prevent crime.  

“It’s not enough to wring your hands and say it’s unacceptable for crime,” Walz said. “Of course it’s unacceptable. 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. It gets us there on building on Minnesota values.”

DFL leaders in the House announced their public safety plan earlier this week. That $100 million proposal includes grant money for community policing, law enforcement investigations, and nonprofit organizations that work on violence prevention. They also want to beef up investigations of alleged wrongdoing by police.

The House Public Safety Committee is planning to hold hearings on the public safety proposal early in the 2022 session.

Miller, R-Winona, said the state’s record $7.7 billion surplus presents an opportunity for broader restructuring of the tax code. He highlighted a push to eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits and pointed to possible rate cuts for other earners.

“Long-term ongoing tax relief so Minnesotans see more money in their pocket every single paycheck — week after week, month after month, year after year,” Miller said, adding that Republicans had not yet put a dollar figure on how much their tax cuts would total, but he said every working Minnesotan would benefit from tax rate cuts.

Last week, Walz included a rebate plan and business tax relief as part of his budget proposal.