The Potluck

Senate GOP legislative agenda: Get tougher on crime and cut state taxes

By: - January 26, 2022 1:13 pm

State Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, speaks with reporters on Sep. 9, 2021 a day after he was elected majority leader. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

Senate Republicans on Wednesday outlined a broad vision for how they would address rising violent crime, spend the $7.7 billion projected surplus and educate children they say have had their learning disrupted by the pandemic. 

“We know crime rates are up, kids are falling behind and record inflation is eating away at family budgets,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona. 

Miller said Republicans would focus on stemming the surge in violent crime and offer financial incentives to hire and retain police officers. Republican lawmakers — who, like their DFL counterparts, are all up for reelection this fall — are casting themselves as champions of police and proponents of law and order.

“We know more cops results in less crime,” Miller said. “If someone breaks the law, there should be consequences.”

State Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said his caucus wants to see a series of stiffer punishments for violent criminals. Current laws are too lenient, he said, and county prosecutors and judges are shifting focus away from crime victims.

“Much of the crime wave has been attributed to progressive policies like reducing and eliminating bail,” Limmer said. “We intend to remember the victims first before we make public policy.”

Limmer said he and fellow Republicans support proposals to make carjacking its own offense and would call for a number of minimum mandatory sentences for violent offenders. He also criticized the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission (MSGC), an appointed body that recently considered a proposal to change sentencing rules to reduce consideration of an offender’s custody status. A vote to make the change was scuttled after strong pushback

Limmer said Republicans will introduce legislation requiring Senate confirmation of  appointees to the MSGC.

“If they’re going to start making policy decisions, then the Legislature should confirm who those individuals are,” he said.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said that on education, Republicans will focus on empowering parents, improving literacy skills and addressing learning loss caused by the pandemic. 

On taxes, Republicans argued that the state’s budget surplus is evidence that Minnesota taxpayers have overpaid. They have criticized a proposal by DFL Gov. Tim Walz to issue direct payments to Minnesotans, dubbed Walz checks, as “insulting” and paltry. 

Miller said Republicans would instead focus on “permanent, long-term” tax cuts, citing some proposals to eliminate Social Security income from state taxes. 

Miller did not provide specific figures for how much they intend to spend on their law enforcement recruitment incentives, and he also did not give a figure how much their tax cut proposals may cost. 

The Senate GOP news conference came just hours before Walz was expected to outline the final part of his supplemental budget proposal, unveiling his ideas for public safety and health care. 

The legislative session, which begins Monday, will run into May. Unlike last year, lawmakers are under no constitutional obligation to pass new spending measures, having adopted a new two-year budget last summer in a special session. 

A number of leftover items remain unaddressed, including how to divide up $250 million pandemic bonus pay to frontline workers. Democrats have called for more money to be distributed.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.