The Potluck

Walz tries to revive talk of ‘Walz checks’; Republicans remain opposed

By: - June 20, 2022 12:00 pm

Gov. Tim Walz again called for direct payments to Minnesotans. File photo by Nicole Neri/Minnesota Reformer.

Gov. Tim Walz tried to revive the possibility of direct payments to taxpayers in an interview with WCCO’s Esme Murphy on Sunday, saying he wants a “15-minute special session” to give individuals about $1,000 and families about $2,000, using half of the state’s budget surplus.

Walz, who is seeking re-election this fall, sounded like he was reading from the same script as his Republican colleagues talking about tax cuts: “The biggest thing we can do to improve the quality of life for Minnesotans right now is to put the money back in their hands.”

While Republicans and Democrats both support returning surplus tax payments to Minnesotans, they can’t agree on the details.

Walz and legislative leaders broke off negotiations for a special session last week, dashing hopes that the two sides would reach an agreement on spending the state’s $9.3 billion projected budget surplus.

DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman said on Monday morning her caucus would go along with a special session on direct payments without more negotiations on DFL spending priorities for schools and infrastructure.

She said she thinks her caucus would approve, but hasn’t asked them yet. As for doing it in 15 minutes, that would require modifying the rules — otherwise the fastest they can get it done is in three days.

A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans noted they passed permanent tax cuts during the regular session “so every person who pays taxes would receive immediate relief that doesn’t go away with the election.”

Inflation is a difficult problem for state lawmakers, whose main tools for addressing increasing prices are tax cuts. On the one hand, gas prices, food prices and everything else prices are hurting people — especially people with modest incomes. On the other hand, dumping more money on a hot economy risks driving up demand and further exacerbating price increases.

Only Walz can call a special legislative session, but he would be reluctant to do so without an agreement inked beforehand, lest lawmakers take the session in unpredictable directions. Only the Legislature can adjourn itself.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.