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Tim Walz pitches direct payments again — this time up to $2,000 per couple

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is floating a proposal to double the original $500 "Walz checks" he pitched earlier this year. But the odds of that happening appear slim as lawmakers failed to reach a deal to return to the Capitol for a special legislative session.

Tim Walz, Peggy Flanagan - UI negotiations
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, left, and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, right, on Monday, March 14, 2022, speak to reporters after they met with legislative leaders about a plan to replenish the state's unemployment insurance trust fund and send checks out to front-line workers.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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MINNEAPOLIS — With no sign lawmakers can reach a deal to return to the Capitol this year, Gov. Tim Walz continues to tout his proposal to use a significant portion of the state's historic budget surplus on direct payment checks to Minnesotans.

In an interview Sunday, June 19, with WCCO-TV in the Twin Cities , Walz said he'd now support returning half of the state's historic $9.25 billion dollar budget surplus to residents with $1,000 checks per individual and $2,000 checks for families. This doubles the original $500 "Walz checks" he proposed earlier this year.

"Minnesotans need it. We're seeing this both nationally and globally, inflationary pressures, especially on gasoline and food. Let's give half of it back," Walz said on WCCO. "It'd be a 15-minute special session, a one-page bill; my revenue department is prepared and ready to go."

The Minnesota Legislature finished its regular session May 23 with billions still on the table, and no major decisions on public safety, education and tax breaks. A week before the regular session's close, Walz and legislative leaders said they had reached a framework for a deal on billions in spending and tax cuts, but that did not include Walz's proposed direct payments.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, on Monday said she wasn't certain whether the Democratic-Farmer-Labor majority in her chamber would back Walz's new proposal.

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"I would bring it to the caucus and my sense is that they would approve. I cannot give a yes or no without bringing it to the caucus," Hortman said. "A 15-minute special session would require willing participation by the House GOP to suspend the rule that requires that a bill be read and reported on three separate days. Otherwise the fastest we can do is three days."

Leadership in the Republican-controlled Senate has not expressed interest in supporting the direct payments, and instead backs bigger tax cuts.

"During the legislative session, Senate Republicans passed permanent, ongoing tax relief of more than $8 billion dollars so every person who pays taxes would receive immediate relief that doesn't go away with the election," said Senate Republican Caucus spokeswoman Rachel Aplikowski.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen called the new checks proposal a '"Hail Mary' gimmick" and questioned whether even the House would go along with a single-issue special session.

"The reality is that the only individual who has the power to call a special session is Gov. Walz and he can do so today," Jensen said in a statement Monday. "So, I encourage him to honor his word, prove this isn’t election year politicking, and give back all of the state surplus to those Minnesota taxpayers who created it."

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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