The Minnesota legislature is raising taxes on state residents while simultaneously expanding benefits to illegal immigrants such as free college tuition and health care, aligning it with some of the most liberal places in the country.
Members of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, which in Minnesota controls the governor's office and both chambers of Minnesota's legislature, in May passed an array of tax hikes that will be used in part to fund programs for illegal immigrants. Minnesota Democratic governor Tim Walz signed measures that raise taxes on gas, retail deliveries, cars, and other items, even as the state entered March with a $17.5 billion budget surplus. At the same time, Minnesota Democrats enacted laws that will allow illegal immigrants to receive free state college tuition, enroll in the state's low-income insurance program, and qualify for driver's licenses.
"We want to make sure that when we're expanding opportunities ... we're doing it for all Minnesotans, regardless of background, regardless of their documentation status," liberal state lawmaker Omar Fateh said.
The changes align Minnesota—where Republicans held a majority in the state senate until this year—with the nation's most liberal states and cities. Washington, D.C., allows low-income illegal immigrants to enroll in public health care, and California will soon follow in 2024. Nineteen states, including California, Massachusetts, and Vermont, issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
Walz did not return a request for comment. The Democrat's tax hikes come as part of a $1.4 billion transportation package, an initiative that Walz said was worth the price tag.
"The people of Minnesota understand that you get what you pay for, and when it comes to the roads, we're going to have to figure out a dedicated source," Walz said. "Gas tax increases? I'm open to it."
Minnesota's gas tax had not been increased since 2008 prior to this year.
In addition to the tax increases, Democrats passed measures that allow illegal immigrants to take advantage of the state's "North Star Promise," which covers tuition at Minnesota public colleges and universities for students whose families earn less than $80,000 annually. Illegal immigrants can also enroll in MinnesotaCare, the state's public insurance program. An estimated 40,000 illegal immigrants living in Minnesota meet the program's requirements.
Minnesota Republicans hammered Walz for the "bonkers" tax hikes, saying Democrats worked to "grab for more" amid a record-high budget surplus. Minnesota, like many states, received lucrative federal COVID relief funds to pad its coffers going into 2023. House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R.) said the decision to pass these measures tells Minnesotans: "We had your money. We had $17.5 billion extra of your money. Not enough. We're going to double down on that and take a little bit more." Republican state lawmaker Nolan West echoed Demuth's argument, saying, "Instead of using that money, this [transportation] bill raises taxes by $3.7 billion dollars. It's insane."
Many Minnesota taxpayers agreed. "It's not really the government's to begin with. They should take what they need and let us keep the rest," one Minnesotan, Pam, told CBS News in May. "It is our money, is it not?" college student Rachel Solberg added.