‘Walz Checks’ now bigger, but still crumbs

On Monday, Minnesota Management & Budget announced that the state’s forecast budget surplus had grown to $9.3 billion. This is a staggering amount of money the state government is forecast to take from its residents over and above what it said it needed.

When the previous surplus was announced in December, Gov. Walz proposed to give some of the money back to Minnesotans in the form of a ‘Walz Check‘ — yes, he actually called it that — a one-off payment of $175 for single tax filers and $350 for married filers, subject to an income cap ($164,400 for single filers and $273,470 for married filers). This would have accounted for just 10 percent of the forecast surplus, the rest going toward even more government spending.

This is borderline insulting. With gas prices averaging $3.45 a gallon, $175 would fill a 16-gallon tank exactly 3.2 times. Minnesotans are feeling the squeeze from higher prices, but Gov. Walz was loath to give up his new pot of cash.

Because of the backlash to this tin-eared idea — there are elections due in November, after all — on the news of the increased surplus yesterday, Gov. Walz proposed to toss Minnesotans a few more crumbs from the state government’s well-stocked table. Bring Me the News reports:

In response to Monday’s news, Gov. Tim Walz on Monday said with news of the higher surplus, he would like to see the Minnesota Legislature triple his proposed direct payment checks he previously proposed, so single Minnesotans would get $500 and married couples would get $1,000, and said he’d like to see Minnesotans get the checks before this summer.

This sauce is only a little less weak than the giveaway he touted in December. The Senate Republicans plan, announced on Monday, would give a tax saving of $1,000 each year to a family making $100,000 and $500 each year to an individual making $37,000 — and that was calculated using the old surplus figure.

While there are quibbles with the Senate GOP’s plan, it is undoubtedly based on the right idea: that this surplus ought to be left with the people who will earn it — ordinary, hardworking Minnesotans — and that that should be done via permanent tax rate cuts.