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Minnesota Senate GOP calls for keeping state spending 'closely in check,' vows to block tax hikes

With a state budget surplus and more than $2.6 billion set to come to Minnesota from the federal government, Senate Republicans said the state should cut back in some areas.

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Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, spoke with reporters outside the state Capitol building. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Republicans on Tuesday, March 16, introduced their $51.9 billion budget plan, calling on the state government to tighten its belt and rejecting proposals for new taxes.

The GOP caucus, which holds a majority in the Senate, moved its priorities Tuesday with a focus on recovering from COVID-19 and supporting students, families and employers. With a projected $1.6 billion surplus in the state and $2.6 billion more set to come to Minnesota from a federal COVID-19 aid package, Republican lawmakers also reiterated that they oppose plans to hike taxes on Minnesotans.

"We are helping our businesses recover and get the economy moving again after the prolonged closures to mitigate COVID. And, we are giving families the support they need to prosper in our state," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in a news release.

Gov. Tim Walz last month proposed raising taxes on top income earners and corporations in the state, among others, to generate the revenue needed to boost Minnesota schools and to offer tax returns for workings families. The DFL governor on Thursday, March 18, is set to provide an update to his $52.4 billion proposal.

Walz brought the initial plan forward before state budget analysts announced the state expected a rosier financial outlook than they reported last year.

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MORE STATE GOVERNMENT NEWS:

  • With variants as 'wild card,' Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers extended despite GOP backlash The Minnesota Senate on Monday advanced a plan to give the Legislature veto power over future extensions of peacetime emergencies.
  • 'We're beating this thing': Walz loosens restrictions on restaurants, events and Twins The dial turns come as nearly 1.2 million Minnesotans had been vaccinated, including more than 70% of seniors.
  • Minnesota Democratic leaders tout $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Signed into law by President Joe Biden last week, the American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks to eligible Americans, an expanded child tax credit, financial aid for struggling businesses, boosts to COVID-19 vaccine distribution and more.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday drew a line in the sand about items they'd block if Walz brought them forward. They said bumping up any taxes, creating a state health care buy-in system, dropping funding to law enforcement groups and allowing felons who've completed their prison sentences to vote would be "no-go" items in the Senate.
“There is a lot of one-time money coming in, on top of a surplus that is a result of reduced government spending," Senate Finance Chair Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said. "So, we can’t start funding massive government programs with money that won’t be here in two years. If anything, we need to keep the state's budget closely in check until the pandemic is over."

House Democrats are set to present their budget plans in the coming days. They've said the state needs to boost spending for programs that can help Minnesotans most in need amid the pandemic if Minnesota's economy is to bounce back in the long-run and they said the GOP proposal contained "lies and gimmicks."

“The proposed Senate Republican budget targets are woefully inadequate," House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said. "Minnesotans deserve a budget that will help them recover from COVID-19, and the Senate Republican budget fails them.”

Once both majority chambers and the governor put forward their priorities, lawmakers will set about weeks of debates and negotiations about what should end up in the two-year budget. Ultimately, lawmakers and the governor will have to strike a compromise before July 1 or risk a government shutdown.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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