New Walz plan for surplus includes bigger tax rebate checks

March 18, 2022

NEW HOPE, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz released an updated plan Thursday for how to spend the state’s enormous budget surplus, including a proposal for income tax rebate checks of $1,000 per couple.

His revised supplemental budget proposal, released Monday, follows last month’s announcement that the state’s budget surplus has grown to $9.25 billion. It formalizes an idea he floated at the time for expanding his proposed tax rebate checks to $500 for single filers and $1,000 for married couples.

He’s calling the plan “Walz Checks,” a term that echoes the sales tax rebates known as “Jesse Checks” issued under former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Using a New Hope gas station as the backdrop, 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,” he said. “It would help Minnesotans.”

But the proposal requires approval by the Minnesota Legislature, which is split between a Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House.

Senate Republicans are pushing to use most of the surplus for permanent income tax cuts for everyone, while House Democrats want to target the money toward lower-income Minnesotans and social programs.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, of Winona, told reporters he wants permanent, ongoing tax relief, but did not rule out the possibility of a one-time rebate.

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

Walz also proposed about $230 million in additional spending, including $73 million for cost-of-living increases for retirees on public pension plans, $23.5 million for health care, $20 million for emergency shelter services and $9 million for cybersecurity. He also proposed replacing an aging State Patrol helicopter.