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 Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or other GOP leaders who’ve gained national followings by 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 protect abortion rights in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade; to make Minnesota a refuge for patients coming from other states to get abortions; and for trans youth coming from other states to seek 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 drivers licenses for all, regardless of immigration status. He signed one allowing convicted felons to vote once they get out of prison, and another making Juneteenth a holiday. And he signed yet another requiring Minnesota utilities to get 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 several major budget bills this week, most of which are broadly similar to his own proposals. He mentioned tax credits for families that he says would reduce child poverty by 25%. He renewed his call for direct tax rebates from the state’s 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.”