KSTP poll shows “Minnesotans want budget surplus back”

What to do with Minnesota’s historic surplus of $9.3 billion? That is the question dominating the Legislature. But from Minnesotans, the answer is clear: they want the state government to Give It Back.

KSTP reports:

In our latest KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, it’s clear that most Minnesotans want much of the surplus back one way or another.

According to the survey, 68% of respondents say they agree with a plan proposed by Gov. Tim Walz to send direct payments of $500 to single taxpayers and $1,000 to married tax filers. Only 18% disagree, and 14% are not sure.

Those results did not surprise Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier. “When you say here’s $500, do you want it? What do you think most people will say? Yes!,” Schier said with a laugh.

Survey respondents also favor a state Senate Republican plan to cut income taxes for nearly every Minnesotan who earns a taxable income by reducing the state’s first tax bracket rate. The plan receives 53% support, with just 24% opposed.

‘Walz checks’ are bad policy. They are a one-off. This surplus is structural, it is forecast to persist into the future, so measures which also persist, like tax rate cuts, are preferable.

‘Walz checks’ are more popular than the Senate’s proposed tax cuts — although both policies are winners with the voters — but this is probably because, as I noted last week, a state income tax rate cut only benefits state income taxpayers and the bottom 20 percent of Minnesota households by income pay no income tax at all. Indeed, once you factor in tax credits, those households actually take out more in state income tax than they put in. To receive those credits you have to file, and Gov. Walz’s plan would send checks to every filer. Under his plan, those households, while paying nothing in state income tax, would receive a check paid for out of the surplus generated mostly by elevated income tax payments.

In any case, either of these proposals is preferable to spending the surplus.