EXCLUSIVE: Gov. Walz talks budget, social security tax relief

As the Legislature prepares to take up the budget after Spring recess, State Capitol reporter Quinn Gorham sat down for an exclusive interview with Gov Walz
Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 8:04 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) - As the state Legislature prepares to take up budget items after Spring recess, our State Capitol reporter Quinn Gorham sat down for an exclusive interview with Governor Walz.

In the first of two parts, the governor talks all things budget, and the possibility of Social Security Tax Relief.

Thursday at 6, we’ll hear what the Governor told Quinn about his remaining legislative priorities for the session.

QUINN: when you woke up the morning after the election, when you started not only did you win, but the DFL secured a Trifecta what was going through your head?

Walz : Yeah. And I found out about 3:30 in the morning, you know, you’re kind of late and I got a text from from Speaker Hortman. And at the time, he said, It looks like we’re going to add the Senate to this. I think the biggest thing for Minnesota was that there was work that was unfinished. I think one of the frustrations is ideologically, you know, some of the big issues that come up, we have to deal with reproductive care in that. But I think the frustration is where we were sitting on a $12 billion surplus last May. We had a deal and then politics, you know, both walked away from the deal. I think the biggest thing I thought it was and the first thing I said to leaders was I said we have responsibility to finish things on time…

Quinn: Let’s talk about the joint budget targets in general real quick… it’s pretty early on that budget targets, let alone joint budget targets. How big is that?

Walz: It’s a big deal I think for you know, your viewers are out there listening as we negotiate Democrats and Republicans last year this year, you know, Democrats negotiating but taking input. One of the things is we have a set target, I’ve got the balanced budget. That’s what we’ve done over the last few years. We can’t run a deficit. With that being said then we come up with where it is. Everybody has a different idea. Of where they should spend that money. We’ve agreed upon targets inside of that. And now the legislative process will work democracy work groups are coming up here and saying we need more money for nursing. We need more money for child care. We need more money for tax cuts for both. Now inside those budget targets. They will work those out and finish the first week of May with those. We will try and conference them together. And then my goal is will finish on time.

Quinn: I want to talk about the GOP. Yeah. Because one of the criticisms about this big budget surplus is that it should be going back to Minnesota and they want to see more tax cuts. What do you say to that?

Walz: Well, it is going back to Minnesota as the one thing I will just very clearly say to the GOP we negotiated a deal together and they chose to walk away for political reasons. They’re very clear. They weren’t. You know, they weren’t cagey about it. They said we’re going to win all three. And we’re going to do it our way. So we’re rejecting this deal. I come back to them again with basically the same thing. There are billions of dollars of tax cuts in this. their frustrations is I’m not going to give tax cuts. To the wealthiest Minnesotans because they don’t need them. They’re doing quite well and they find ways that they don’t have to pay at the same rate … so there’s just a difference of where the money goes. What I can tell them is you’re going to see and I just told Minnesotans it’s going to be Data Wise provable, the largest tax cut Minnesota history… I think what we’re saying and the Democrats in the House and senators saying is we’re going to target our tax cuts for the middle class and reducing costs for them, and then we’re going to reevaluate next year.”

Quinn: So on those tax cuts, I want to talk about your initial budget proposal. Yeah, I think it was the building if I’m not mistaken. And the joint budget targets that number was 3 billion… How did you guys settle on that much lower number?

Walz: number 3 million? Well, and it’s it’s no secret on this and I’m glad that they came around. There’s some kind of strange bedfellows now here, Republicans who are convinced my idea to send checks back to people which I feel strongly about steel. They said it was a gimmick. Now they think it’s number we should do that. Democrats in the House aren’t as enthusiastic about that. And I said, Well, let’s talk and be where we’re at. I feel very strongly that we need to put money back in people’s pockets. I feel very strongly that there are people who can see a tax cut and Social Security that need it without the top richest folks having to see that... And I think it’s uhhh…

Quinn: do you think that’s enough money for SSI?

Walz: Yes, I think it might be enough that we’re able to get done but I’m feel very adamant that again, a big chunk of this. About a third of it is going back in forms of tax cut directly back to people. The rest is going to infrastructure education and those types of things.

Quinn: Could we see some social security factor...

Walz: we will we will and like I’ve I’ve compromised with them and said that I when I first came to office in 2019, we cut the Social Security tax. I didn’t get a lot of enthusiastic help from either side at that time, but we were able to get that done. I think Democrats have always made the case that we want to make sure that working class and those folks that depend on it.

Quinn: To be clear, you don’t think we’ll see a total repeal?

Walz: No, I don’t think you’ll see a total repeal. I don’t think it would make sense and it’s very expensive. But I think you’ll see the vast majority of Minnesotans be exempted..