Republican candidate for governor Scott Jensen unveiled a sweeping plan to battle inflation Thursday that includes eliminating Minnesota's state income tax and cutting government spending.
During a news conference at the State Capitol, Jensen said he wants Minnesota to phase out its personal income tax over time, joining neighboring South Dakota and eight other states without a state income tax.
Minnesota's individual income tax is the state's single-largest revenue generator, bringing in an estimated $30 billion over two years.
"We need to put more money in the pocketbooks and the checkbooks of everyday Minnesotans now," Jensen said.
The Chaska family physician and former state senator said he would pay for the plan through budget cuts and economic growth but offered few specifics.
Asked whether it's realistic to eliminate the personal income tax and how the state's budget could be balanced without that revenue, Jensen said: "I don't know how we could determine if it's realistic if we're not willing to have that big, bold, robust discussion."
The income tax phase-out was among 10 initiatives Jensen outlined in his "Fight Inflation Today" plan, which he said would "protect and enhance the family budget."
The plan contrasts with DFL Gov. Tim Walz's latest proposal to return half the state's budget surplus to taxpayers by issuing checks of $1,000 to individuals and $2,000 to families. The governor also agreed to permanent tax cuts as part of the budget deal reached with legislative leaders during this year's regular session, but lawmakers failed to pass a tax bill before the deadline to adjourn.
Jensen accused Walz of "pandering" to Minnesota's voters with his one-time rebates that the governor initially called "Walz checks."
"When I look at what Gov. Walz has proposed, I ask myself, how can he be so out of touch?" Jensen said. "To me when you start talking about checks going to all Minnesotans, even if they didn't contribute to this overpayment, and then put your name on them, this is the height of political vanity."
Democrats charged Jensen with pressuring Republican legislators to walk away from the bipartisan budget deal, which included what would have been the largest tax cuts in state history.
"And now he's opposing sending the surplus back to Minnesotans in the form of checks," state DFL chair Ken Martin said in a statement. "He doesn't care about inflation — he cares about winning an election to enact his extreme agenda."
Jensen said that under his proposal, the average family of four would see an additional $5,000 or more in their pockets through "permanent tax reductions or other mechanisms." And he would exempt Social Security payments from state taxes.
Jensen also pledged to veto any tax increases and line-item veto "wasteful spending." He said his administration would investigate what he called "billions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse" in state government. He singled out day care fraud, light-rail spending and the troubled MNLARS vehicle licensing and registration computer system.
Jensen was asked whether he thought he could make more than a "slight dent" in inflation, given that it's largely a national and international issue.
"I think Minnesotans would appreciate a slight dent in inflation," he said.