Minnesota lawmakers eye $7.7 billion surplus, public safety as session starts this week

Leaders of both major political parties in the state legislature told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the legislative session, which starts Monday, will be filled with issues surrounding the $7.7 billion budget surplus and how to best handle the growing problem of violent crime.

House DFL Majority Leader, Rep. Ryan Winkler, told KSTP his caucus will be looking at creative ways to address the burgeoning crime problem which includes a $300 million proposal from Gov. Tim Walz and a $100 million plan from the House DFL.

“I think we believe that history shows that harsher penalties don’t actually stop crime,” said Winkler. “But things like prevention, early intervention and having police officers who actually stop the crime from happening.”

House Republican Minority Leader, Rep. Kurt Daudt, said his caucus will be focusing on spending some of the surplus money on recruitment, training and retention of law enforcement officers in cities hit hardest by the recent wave of violent crime.

“I think we have to spend money on hiring and keeping more officers because I think there is no way out of this without spending more money on officers right now,” said Daudt.

Walz has also proposed returning some of the surplus money to Minnesotans with his so-called “Walz Checks,” but House GOP leaders would rather see permanent tax cuts.

“A rebate is an election-year gimmick for a governor who is running for re-election and a little bit nervous about what the political environment might look like,” said Daudt. “Tax reductions are basically reducing the amount of money that we are collecting.”

Winkler said the DFL House Caucus will focus more on policies and spending that give help to families and workers who’ve seen harder times during the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of kitchen-table economic issues that we are going to prioritize,” said Winkler. “I think people who’ve lived through this pandemic have seen what happens if they don’t have access to paid family leave, or earned sick leave — that kind of thing.”