'Won’t let it go to waste’: Walz uses State of State to call for another Minnesota miracle

A man talks and raises his hand
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks during the State of the State address on Wednesday in the house chambers of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.
Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via AP

Updated: 8:45 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday called on lawmakers to capitalize on the last four weeks of session to pass a budget, approve gun control measures and to safeguard abortion and LGBTQ rights.

During his fifth State of the State address — and the first in his second term — the governor ticked off the legislative achievements of the last few months. And he harkened back to the 1970s “Minnesota Miracle” to set some expectations for the Legislature as it wraps up a nearly $72 billion budget.

With a Democratic trifecta in control at the Capitol, Walz said lawmakers had a new opportunity and a mandate to act on what Minnesotans asked them to do. That included sending rebate checks back to taxpayers, creating tax credits for parents and spending more on public schools and public safety.

“For four years, despite enormous headwinds and complicated politics, we did get a lot of good things done for the people of Minnesota,” Walz said. “But now we have a new mandate for action – a chance to set aside old fights in favor of doing something truly historic for our children and grandchildren,” he continued. “This is a moment we have been building towards for a long time. And we will not let it go to waste.”

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Democrats at the Capitol lauded Walz’s message and said they would remain on track for the last month of session in passing their slate of priorities. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers said the speech was divisive and would make it harder to reach bipartisan agreements in the final month of session.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said the speech was more like a national campaign speech than a State of the State. And he said it failed to touch on many issues important to Minnesotans.

“He skipped a lot of the things that most Minnesotans care about: a lot of the issues with tax relief, a lot of the issues with law enforcement we’re seeing going on,” Johnson said. “I was really hoping for a uniting speech but as you saw from the reaction, there’s really a divided body here today.”

The governor also used his speech to juxtapose Minnesota with Republican-led states that have approved policies to ban access to abortion or gender-affirming care. He said Minnesota would take the opposite tack, instead defending people who travel to the state for health care.

“The forces of hatred and bigotry are on the march in states across this country and around the world,” Walz said as Democrats cheered and Republicans stayed quiet. “But let me say this now, and let me be very clear about this: ‘That march stops at Minnesota’s borders.’”

The Legislature approved and the governor signed into law this year a policy that guarantees the right to reproductive health care – including abortion – in Minnesota. And Walz issued an executive order directing the state to defend those traveling to Minnesota for gender-affirming care.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said DFLers at the Capitol were advancing legislation that would encourage more people to move to Minnesota and to stay here.

“If people want the good life, they can come to Minnesota,” Hortman said. “We will have invested in schools, we will have invested in health care and if you want to raise your child here, you can trust that your child will be safe and your child will be cared for.”

Two men greet each other
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, right, greets distinguished guest and former governor Mark Dayton before Walz delivered the State of the State address on Wednesday in the house chambers of the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.
Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via AP

Republicans have countered that message, saying DFL tax proposals would encourage people to flee the state.

Walz also called on the Legislature to pass a pair of bills that would require universal background checks for firearm sales and allow a person to request that someone’s firearms be removed if they are believed to pose a risk to themselves or to others.

“I’m not just a veteran, not just a hunter, not just a gun owner. I’m a dad. And for many years, I was a teacher. I know that there’s no place for weapons of war in our schools, or in our churches, or in our banks, or anywhere else people are just trying to live in peace,” he said.

“We’ve got a gun safety bill on the table. And we’re going to get it passed. And I’m going to sign it,” Walz continued. “We’re going to have universal background checks. We’re going to have a red flag law to keep guns out of the wrong hands. And if anyone in America doubts that we can take meaningful action to protect our kids, I’ve got two words: Watch us.”

Walz finished the speech by calling for a new Minnesota miracle.

“Fifty years after the Minnesota Miracle, we have another chance to be America’s North Star,” he said. “An opportunity to carve out a corner of our country where no child is left hungry. Where no community is left behind. And nobody gets told they don’t belong.”

Hortman said DFLers were ready to meet the challenge and that their budget framework would achieve that aim.

“I think that’s where we are – Minnesota Miracle 2.0,” she said. “It is time for us to invest in Minnesota, to take responsibility not only for these days and the times we’re living in now but to invest in the kind of Minnesota we want in the future.”

But some were skeptical about the path to another Minnesota miracle this year.

“We didn’t hear that we were going to fund our nursing homes, we didn’t hear about funding other things that are important, there was no mention of returning that surplus to Minnesotans,” House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said. “Even though they (Democrats) have the total control of state government, they have to be willing to compromise and collaborate.”