Showdown looming at State Capitol between tax cuts, new spending

A classic political showdown is looming between Republicans and Democrats at the Minnesota State Capitol as they go head-to-head on how to deal with a $7.7 billion projected budget surplus.

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In a debate as old as time, Democrats propose billions in new spending while Republicans say they will propose billions in tax cuts.

“The state has a massive budget surplus as everybody knows,” says Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller. “That means the state is collecting too much money from the taxpayers so we are going to focus on permanent, ongoing tax relief to put more money in the pockets of Minnesotans.”

DFL House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler offered a familiar response to Miller’s call for tax cuts.

“That starts to sound dangerously like the mistakes we made in the late ’90s when we cut taxes, took on ongoing spending and assume the good times were going to last forever,” Winkler says. “We ended up with a decade of deficits after that. School funding has never been the same. Child care support has never been the same since we made those mistakes.”

Winkler and Miller will appear on “At Issue with Tom Hauser” Sunday morning.

Although Miller wants tax relief, he’s not in favor of the so-called “Walz Checks,” or direct tax rebate payments, proposed by the governor.

“We are more focused again on permanent, ongoing tax relief instead of a one-time payment that barely scratches the surface of inflation,” Miller says, citing eliminated the state tax on Social Security income as one key priority.

Winkler is open to the direct payments proposed by Walz but says spending on key programs for middle and low-income Minnesotans will be the top priority of House Democrats. “There is some space to provide some direct taxpayer help in Minnesota this year, that’s true. But we also have to look at the long-term safety net that most families need to survive and thrive.”

There is one area of agreement between the two leaders. They both think there needs to be an audit of the Southwest Light Rail project to find out why the largest public works project in state history keeps growing in cost and the opening delayed several more years.