Walz pitches bigger one-time checks

Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announce their revised supplemental budget at a gas station in New Hope on Thursday.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Gov. Tim Walz formalized a trial balloon he launched last month by formally proposing a supplemental budget Thursday that includes $500 one-time checks to individual taxpayers and $1,000 checks to couples. 

Using a New Hope gas station as the backdrop for his revised plan for a projected budget surplus that has grown to $9.24 billion, Walz said the checks will help Minnesotans dealing with higher gas prices and other everyday needs. 

“It would be about $2 billion of the surplus and send it back in checks right now to make a difference at the pump, to make a difference at the grocery store until we get stability in Ukraine, get Russia out of Ukraine, get some stability in our prices,” Walz said. “It would help Minnesotans.”

Walz proposed about $230 million in additional spending on other state programs, including $73 million to boost public pension plans and $20 million for the Main Street Economic Revitalization program. Walz also wants $23.5 million for health care, $20 million for emergency shelter services, $9 million for new cybersecurity measures and for a new State Patrol helicopter.

A gas tax holiday is not part of the new proposal. But Walz said he would sign one into law if the Legislature sends it to him. Some House DFLers have raised the possibility of temporarily lifting the state’s 28-cent gas tax to help motorists deal with high prices.

Republicans say the Walz plan is a gimmick. They argue the state should cut taxes permanently by lowering income tax rates and eliminating any tax on Social Security.

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Already this week Democrats and Republicans missed a deadline to provide tax relief for businesses. House Democrats blocked action on a $2.7 billion fix for the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund that both Walz and Senate Republicans support. DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman said there has to be an agreement to provide bonus payments for frontline pandemic workers before the House will act on the unemployment issue. 

Earlier this week, Walz said he won’t discuss tax cuts before the pandemic bonus issue is resolved. 

Still, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, did not rule out the possibility of a one-time rebate.

“Any and all proposals to put money back into peoples’ pockets,” Miller said. “We are very focused on giving money back to the people of Minnesota.”