By STEVE KARNOWSKI – Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen on Thursday called for tax cuts and curbing government spending and regulations to help Minnesota residents cope with the highest inflation rate in 40 years.
Inflation has already dominates national election campaigns. Republicans see it as a powerful problem to try to build their ranks in the Minnesota Capitol and other state houses across the country, as well as in Congress.
“We need to put more money into the wallets and checkbooks of everyday Minnesotans now,” Jensen said at a news conference.
Democratic Chief Executive Tim Walz a day earlier reiterated his call for lawmakers to approve one-time tax refund checks of $1,000 for individual filers and $2,000 for couples to return some of the state’s remaining $7 billion budget surplus to taxpayers. to help them deal with high gas and other prices.
That earned Walz a shout-out from President Joe Biden on Wednesday, who called on other state and local governments to take similar actions when he proposed a federal gas tax vacation. But Republican legislative leaders again rejected the rebate proposal as an election year gimmick and maintained their calls for permanent tax cuts. The chance of a special session to approve any changes remains small.
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Jensen criticized the governor’s plan as “indulgence” because he would send checks to all Minnesotans whether they paid taxes contributing to the surplus or not. He called for a possible phasing out of the state’s personal income tax. He also supported a GOP push to abolish state income taxes on Social Security benefits, which are already exempt for many lower- and middle-income Minnesotans.
While his plan contained few details about how he would get there, Jensen said his goal is to return about $4,000 to $5,000 for every family of four, and that his plan could include some sort of one-time, upfront payment with ongoing cuts. .
Jensen, a primary care physician and former state senator from Chaska, has moved beyond skepticism and opposition to the vaccine to Walz’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that helped him gain GOP approval, and has the latest time talked about public safety and economy for weeks.
He previously proposed suspending the state’s 28.6 cents per gallon gas tax. Walz hasn’t ruled out a vacation on the gas tax, but the idea didn’t catch on until the legislature adjourned its regular session last month, and the governor called his rebate proposal a more effective alternative.
Governors can’t do much to reduce inflation, which is a problem with the national economy, but Jensen said the state can help lower people’s costs. He didn’t have many details to address the big hole that the abolition of the personal income tax would blow in the state budget. But he said he wanted to get that conversation going.
“If we can’t have that conversation, we’re never going to solve the problem with big, bold ideas,” Jensen said.
Creating a “sizzling economy” could help, Jensen said, along with “dramatically reducing” state spending. Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse could be a “huge dent,” he added, citing cost overruns involving the troubled Southwest Light Rail project and the state’s driver license system as examples, along with fraud exposed. has entered day care and food bank programs.
“I think the only way to come up with innovative, effective solutions is to throw everything on the table,” said Jensen’s running mate, former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk. And he joked, “Scott and I both, we both have a lot of great ideas that stink.”
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