Minnesota Gov. Walz draws sharp contrasts with red states

Apr 19, 2023, 5:41 PM | Updated: 7:10 pm

Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks to reporters after addressing a rally in support of creat...

Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks to reporters after addressing a rally in support of creating a paid family and medical leave system, in the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)

(AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz drew stark contrasts between Minnesota and Republican-led states Wednesday night, using his State of the State speech to highlight how he and his fellow Democrats have used their new control over state government to push through an ambitious liberal agenda.

Walz, now three months into his second term, told lawmakers and other dignitaries in the House chamber how Minnesota Democrats are bucking the backlash seen in red states across the country against abortion rights, trans rights, pushes for racial equity and other cultural flashpoints.

“I’ve seen some of my fellow governors on TV — they find a lot of time to be on TV — and I hear them talking about ‘freedom,’” Walz said. “But it turns out what they really mean is that government should be free to invade your bedroom, your children’s locker room, and your doctor’s office.”

Walz didn’t name fighting against the “woke” left, but his targets were clear.

“It’s not up to me how folks in those places, folks like Florida go about their business,” he said. “But I got to tell you, I’m pretty glad we do it our way here and not that way.”

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, of East Grand Forks, quipped afterward that DeSantis is probably off Walz’s Christmas card list now.

The 2022 elections gave Minnesota Democrats control over both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time in eight years. Walz called it “a new mandate for action — a chance to set aside the old fights in favor of doing something truly historic for our children and our grandchildren.”

The governor noted that he has already signed legislation or issued executive orders this year to gender-affirming care.

While other states ban books from their schools, Walz said, Minnesota schools are banishing hunger from theirs. He has already signed a bill making school meals free for all students beginning this fall. He also signed a bill allowing 100% of their electricity from carbon-free sources by 2040.

“If there’s one thing I hope folks across this country recognize and take away from what we’re doing here in Minnesota, is it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you stop complaining about corporations going ‘woke’ and start giving a damn about real people and real lives.”

Walz also used his speech to promote his budget proposals. The House and Senate have been debating enormous $17.5 billion budget surplus. And he mentioned his support for bolstering funding for public schools.

The governor also highlighted his support for gun safety legislation that’s been advancing this session — background checks and a red flag law — after being blocked by Republicans for years.

“Minnesotans, and I especially amongst them, are not going to stand by and let people keep making this about the Second Amendment when it’s really about our first responsibility — keeping our children safe,” Walz said. “Be very clear: the time for hiding behind thoughts and prayers is long gone. What we need is action and we need it now.”

Republican legislative leaders told reporters afterward that they wanted to hear the governor support bigger tax cuts and more about fighting crime.

“What we saw was a national campaign speech out there, ignoring the needs of Minnesotans across this state,” Johnson said.

“With a record budget surplus of $17.5 billion, returning that to Minnesotans, reducing government, and the costs, is what our Minnesota residents are looking for,” said House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, of Cold Spring.

But House Speaker Melissa Hortman, of Brooklyn Park, said she and her fellow Democrats came away inspired and share the governor’s apprehensions about what’s happening in Republican-led states.

“All you have to do is read in the newspaper what’s happening in some of these other states. It’s horrifying and it’s frightening,” Hortman said, citing abortion, trans rights and the culture wars. “It’s frightening and there is definitely a very big difference between red states and blue states right now.”

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Minnesota Gov. Walz draws sharp contrasts with red states