'Let's write a story,' Walz says of State of the State speech

Gov. Tim Walz enters the House chambers
Gov. Tim Walz enters the House chambers at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul before delivering his State of the State speech on Wednesday, April 3, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Gov. Tim Walz appears Wednesday evening before a joint session of the Legislature for his first State of the State address, which he said won't resemble the flagship gubernatorial speeches of the past.

For a politician prone to speaking off the cuff, a traditional address built around soaring oratory and wonky details isn't what he's going for.

"This one is going to be different than what you've seen," said Walz, who prepared by going over the annual remarks of the last eight governors.

As of Tuesday, Walz said he had an outline but cautioned he won't be bound by carefully refined text. He said his roughly half-hour appearance will be about weaving the tales of Minnesotans together.

"Some of these will be a little heart wrenching, these stories. Some of them will be a little funnier. Hopefully they'll be inspirational," Walz said in an interview with MPR News. "But my point to these legislators is 'Let's write a story. Let's us write a story that looks different.'"

Gov. Tim Walz talks about his transportation plan.
Gov. Tim Walz talks about his transportation plan at an event this week in Anoka with city manager Greg Lee (left) and others in attendance on March 20, 2019.
Brian Bakst | MPR News File

Governors sometimes use the State of the State to introduce new proposals. This won't be that.

Walz has already laid his cards for the session on the table. He produced a nearly $50 billion budget plan. It would spend more on schools, health care and roads but relies on higher taxes and fees. He also released a hefty construction borrowing plan.

The Democratic-run House and Republican-led Senate have just begun laying out alternatives to the governor's proposals. Lawmakers will spend the final seven weeks of their session working toward an agreement

The former congressmen who sat through his share of presidential addresses doesn't intend to use his speech to harangue his legislative critics, either.

"If this is to be a product of its time, this is about how we go about the business of democracy, how do we go about it," he said. "And how do we provide to the nation that the one divided Legislature in the country can actually find a path forward."

In the interview, Walz said his goal will be to make the case about why his vision would improve Minnesota.

"The core way forward for Minnesota is strong education, access to affordable, quality health care and then empowering communities to innovate, to do the things they do best," he said.

Gov. Walz announces a plan to make Minnesota's energy carbon free.
Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a press conference where he announced a plan to make Minnesota's electric energy carbon-free by 2050 inside the Minnesota State Capitol on March 4, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News File

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he's hoping to hear "optimism" and a positive tone from the governor, especially with the tough budget negotiations about to begin.

"Now we're coming into the place where we're literally butting heads on two budgets that are pretty far apart," Gazelka said. "[That's] not unusual with divided government, but tone and the pace we set now really matters, so that's what I'm hoping to hear."

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