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Minnesotans want Walz to use the surplus for tax cuts, a rebate, and paying state debt. And they want him to stop violent crime.
Minnesotans used the most recent version of the Thinking Minnesota poll to deliver some pointed messages to Gov. Tim Walz and other policymakers as they head into the 2022 session of the Minnesota legislature. Top among them are don’t squander the record $7.7 billion budget surplus and make public safety an urgent priority.
The poll was conducted by Meeting Street Insights, a nationally recognized polling operation based in Charleston, South Carolina. Using a mix of cell phones and landline phones, the company interviewed 500 registered voters across Minnesota from November 30 to December 2. The margin of error is +-4.38 percent.
The top issue for the 2022 legislature will be what to do with a $7.7 billion budget surplus, the largest in state history, representing 15 percent of the entire two-year state budget. The projected surplus already places over $3 billion in the bank. If Gov. Tim Walz and legislators are looking for guidance on the surplus, 57 percent of poll respondents chose permanent tax cuts (24 percent), a one-time tax rebate (12 percent), or paying off state debt (21 percent) when asked how the 2022 state legislature should use the surplus. Only 28 percent chose greater investments in government programs such as education and welfare.
“The message for policymakers today on the surplus is clear — no more spending,” said John Hinderaker, president of Center of the American Experiment. “Between the federal COVID money and now this overcollection of taxes, Minnesotans understand it’s time for fiscal restraint at the Capitol in 2022.”
While most Minnesotans chose fiscal responsibility for the surplus, Democrats stood out in the poll by overwhelmingly choosing more spending on government programs such as education and welfare.
Another emerging issue at the Capitol is crime and punishment. American Experiment is supporting an aggressive agenda in this area to address the violent crime wave now bleeding out from Minneapolis and St. Paul into the suburbs. That agenda is backed up by recent polling.
It starts with shutting down the revolving door that spits Minnesota criminals right back on the street after committing felony after felony, many times with a gun. Mandatory minimum sentences found in state law are no match for weak judges who bend over backwards to find exceptions. We asked Minnesotans if they favored limiting judges’ ability to deviate from mandatory minimums and 57 percent said “yes.”
Another popular reform to the Minnesota statutes would be adding a strong three strikes law for crimes committed with a dangerous weapon, one that judges and prosecutors could not ignore. Support for a three strikes law was favored by 65 percent in our recent poll.
Tougher laws and sentencing will lead to longer prison stays and more costs, so we asked respondents if they were willing to use part of the budget surplus to add more prison space for repeat violent offenders. 49 percent favored this approach, 25 percent strongly favored it.
Minnesotans remain very concerned about crime and desperately want leaders like Gov. Walz to address the issue. 86 percent told us they were personally concerned about the level of crime in the state, up from 81 percent just six months ago.
We asked respondents what the top priority should be for the governor in 2022 and the number one answer was responding to the surge in violent crime, with twice as many people choosing crime prevention over responding to the COVID pandemic.
“There is a disturbing disconnect between policymakers such as Tim Walz and the people of Minnesota regarding crime and punishment,” Hinderaker said. “The people expect government to keep them safe, and they’re willing to pay for it.”
Since our founding in 1990, education, specifically school choice, has been at the top of every reform agenda published by American Experiment. School choice has also consistently enjoyed strong support from Minnesotans in the Thinking Minnesota poll. In December 2019, 71 percent of respondents supported school choice for students in failing schools. In March 2020, 77 percent supported early learning scholarships targeting disadvantaged students.
After a year of distance learning with parents watching and listening to Zoom classes, academic freedom and transparency emerged as an issue for the 2022 legislative session. In our recent poll, 69 percent of respondents believe public schools in Minnesota should be required to make all learning materials and textbooks available on their websites enabling parents to better understand what’s being taught to their children.
Energy policy is another area where American Experiment’s agenda is widely supported by Minnesotans. Our top priority at the Capitol has been and will continue to be fighting back against renewable energy mandates that drive up the cost of energy for Minnesota families. Those mandates have caused Minnesota’s electricity prices to rise 2.7 times faster than the national average.
Despite strong public support, two very clean sources of energy, hydroelectric and nuclear power, have been overlooked by Minnesota policymakers in favor of wind and solar. Further, hydroelectric power we already buy from Canada currently does not count as “renewable,” even though 81 percent of Minnesotans think it should. Thinking Minnesota poll respondents have also consistently supported lifting the unscientific ban on building new nuclear plants, because they recognize nuclear power is reliable, affordable, and has the added bonus of not emitting carbon dioxide.
Lastly, American Experiment will continue to fight Walz’s push to bring California emissions standards to Minnesota. California’s latest idea is a ban on small gas-powered equipment like snow blowers and lawn mowers. Minnesotans overwhelmingly oppose following California’s lead on this ban with 72 percent opposing it and 51 percent strongly opposing it.