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More police officers, tax cuts among top concerns for Minnesota Republicans

Senate Republicans on Wednesday laid out their top priorities for the 2022 legislative session: tax cuts, combatting crime and boosting student literacy.

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, spoke to reporters at the Capitol about Republicans' top priorities for the 2022 legislative session.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Police stations around the state could see a staffing boost under a set of priority policies advanced by Republicans in the state Legislature.

Minnesota Senate Republicans on Wednesday, Jan, 26, laid out their top concerns for the upcoming legislative session, including a new push to help Minnesota students read and giving taxpayers a permanent tax cut.

But chief among the concerns was combating violent crime in Minnesota.

“Folks are scared because we know crime rates are up, kids are falling behind and record inflation is eating away at family budgets,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said. “Things are moving in the wrong direction and Senate Republicans are focused on solutions to put Minnesota back on the right track.”

The caucus was the latest to announce its top priorities for the next few months, and it remained more narrow than those advanced by Democrats who control the Minnesota House of Representatives and governor's office. Ultimately, policies would have to find support in both the Senate and the House to reach the governor's desk.

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GOP lawmakers said they hoped to boost minimum sentences for those who steal a vehicle to use it in another crime and for those who commit violent crimes. And they proposed setting required charges for violent offenses in some circumstances.

"The highest priority for any government is the safety of its citizens. The actions of a few prosecutors are destroying that mission," Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove said, noting Republican frustrations with metro-area prosecutors over criminal charges they viewed as too lax.

Limmer said the state would also consider grants to help recruit and retain law enforcement officers around Minnesota, including more officers of color. And they would encourage campaigns to improve morale around police forces in the community.

Republicans did not yet have a price tag for their proposals. But they said they were key to ensuring public safety.

House Democrats earlier in the week pitched a $100 million plan to reduce crime in the state, including additional money to hire more officers. And the Walz administration pitched $300 million in grants to support crime reduction efforts.

A push for a permanent tax relief

Under the GOP plan, all wage earners could also see a permanent tax cut, and low- and middle-income earners would see extra tax relief, Miller said. And Republicans would aim to remove the tax on social security benefits, he said.

The leader didn't yet have details about the size of those reductions nor the price tag to pay for them. But he said with a projected $7.7 billion budget surplus, lawmakers ought to prioritize returning money to the people who paid it.

"Government bank accounts are doing well but my constituents are paying for it and their bank accounts are being squeezed," Sen. Julia Coleman, R-Chanhassen, said. "They deserve actual relief, not a government spending spree."

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Democrats have also said they'd propose a tax relief plan with part of the budget surplus. Walz said he would issue rebate checks to more than 2.7 million households with the plan and House DFL leaders said they'd target relief to those most affected by the pandemic.

On education, Senate leaders said they would push to improve literacy among students, promote mental health supports and put parents at the fore in deciding what students need in terms of their schooling.

They also promised to again advance a plan to let parents use state funds to help pay for tuition in a private or parochial school. The issue has been a nonstarter with DFL leaders in recent years.

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:

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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