Fact Check: Walz claim of 'sending checks' lacks receipts

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who is campaigning for re-election as the national economy appears headed for a recession, is shoring up his economic credentials.

But Walz has overstepped his record on one of his most well-known proposals, a FOX 9 Fact Check finds.

On the campaign trail, Walz has continued a months-long push for sending rebate checks to most Minnesota adults. The idea, which his staff briefly dubbed "Walz Checks" earlier this year, failed to win support from either party during the 2022 legislative session. Walz's latest proposal increased the check size, but raising the stakes hasn't done anything to kickstart the proposal.

With the issue stalled, Walz this week found a different way to take credit for direct payments going to many Minnesotans.

Walz's latest claim

"I'm fighting to put money back in pockets by sending checks up to $2,000 to help Minnesotans with rising costs," Walz tweeted Wednesday from his campaign account.

The tweet is misleading because Walz can't send $2,000 checks without legislative approval, which hasn't happened. 

The tweet also lacks clarity about the check size. Walz's most recent proposal is $1,000 checks for most adults, and the $2,000 figure is what couples would receive.

In January, Walz proposed $175 checks per adult. In March, after state economists said the surplus would be larger than expected, the DFL governor increased the size of his check proposal to $500 per adult. But neither the House nor Senate passed rebate checks before the session ended in late May.

In June, Walz upped the ante to $1,000 per adult but never called lawmakers back for a special session because Republicans oppose rebate checks.

By then, the issue appeared destined for the election. In June, a FOX 9 headline read, "'Walz Checks' fizzled. Here's why we'll keep hearing about them until November."

This month, the Walz campaign began promoting direct payments in a television ad that accurately portrays the governor's support.

"(He) pushed for tax rebate checks to help out with the cost of gas and groceries. That would be a huge help," says the ad's narrator, Bridget, whom the campaign describes as an Eden Prairie mom.

The on-screen text includes the correct amount: $1,000 per adult.

Thank-you note

Amid the stalemate with Republicans, Walz is taking credit for a different payment program.

This week, more than 1 million Minnesotans are finding out they'll receive $487 frontline worker bonuses. The emails they're receiving feature a thank-you note from Walz, who promotes his work with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and outside groups to approve a $500 million pay package.

The decision to include Walz's thank-you note was made by officials across multiple state agencies, said Nicole Blissenbach, the temporary commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Thursday, when asked by a Minnesota Public Radio reporter about the decision, Walz said the bonuses wouldn't have gone out in the middle of a campaign if lawmakers had approved them in 2021. The Legislature approved a smaller $250 million pool that year but couldn't agree on the check size or who should get them.

"They should've gone (out) a year ago. People can use the money," Walz said, turning to a group of students to ask if any of them had applied. "They don't care whose name is on it. They just want it in their mailbox, in their bank account."

Republicans criticized the move, but they've done it, too. In 2020, President Donald Trump's name appeared on stimulus checks that went out to millions of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic -- and an election year.

Walz's economic record

Minnesota's economy provides talking points for both parties. Walz highlights employment data that show the state's jobless rate hit an all-time low this summer. Meanwhile, Republican challenger Scott Jensen points to inflation readings that remain near a 40-year high.

The Walz ad credits the governor for supporting more childcare funding and signing two budgets with middle-class tax cuts.

It's true that Walz has backed increased childcare funding in his budget proposals. And both budgets during his first term have included modest tax cuts.

The 2019 budget cut the state's second income tax bracket, which all married couples pay on the portion of their income above $41,050 and single filers above $28,080.

The 2021 budget wiped away state tax liability on unemployment benefits that Minnesotans received during the pandemic.

Walz proposed a 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase in 2019, but it stalled in the Legislature.

FOX 9 Fact Check: Here's our rating system

  • True: accurate information that requires little or no additional context
  • Needs clarification: mostly accurate information that leaves out context that would be helpful to voters
  • Not the whole story: the information presented leaves out a significant amount of context that could lead voters to a different conclusion
  • Misleading: partial information presented in a way that misleads voters
  • False: inaccurate information, or information presented out of context

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