ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz wants to send checks of $175 or $350 to more than 2.7 million Minnesota households to spend down the state’s large budget surplus.
The proposal he laid out late this week for spending a portion of Minnesota’s $7.7 billion surplus and leftover federal aid would require legislative approval. He asked lawmakers to quickly approve the plan, but Republicans immediately pushed back on his plan as a “gimmick” as the DFL governor gears up for a reelection push.
“COVID was incredibly hard and put financial and other hardships on families,” Walz said during an appearance at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. “We want to get checks out to people right away and put them in their hands. I would encourage the Legislature to do so as quickly as possible.”
The rebates would be $175 for single tax filers and $350 for married filers, but eligibility would be subject to an income cap. State officials estimated that 2.7 million households would qualify for a total of $700 million in one-time payments.
Walz also wants to repay the state’s unemployment insurance debt and channel money to front-line workers and caregivers strained by the coronavirus pandemic, the Star Tribune reported.
Walz’s economic package also includes $1 billion for front-line workers, from people working in health care or long-term care facilities to child-care workers, grocery store staff and retail employees. An estimated 667,000 workers would get $1,500 payments.
Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller called the checks “nothing more than an election year gimmick.”
“We’ll propose permanent, ongoing, targeted tax relief for working Minnesotans so they see savings every single year,” the Republican leader said.