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Gov. Walz urges compromise in State of the State Address

Walz returned to the House chamber Sunday evening to deliver his annual State of the State Address in front of lawmakers at the capitol.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Governor Tim Walz called for compromise on a range of issues, from replenishing the state's unemployment insurance trust fund to augmenting the state's public safety sector and social investments, during his State of the State Address Sunday evening.

Walz entered the House chamber for the first in-person State of the State at the capitol since 2019, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

With weeks left to go in the legislative session, Walz struck a bipartisan note to the assembled body, saying, "We owe it to the people of Minnesota...to try to put some of our differences aside, to move some things forward."

Walz made familiar overtures for frontline worker relief and a deal to replenish the state unemployment insurance trust fund, the latter of which remains a major sticking point between the parties. 

The governor also called on legislators to use surplus money to continue funding recruitment efforts for certified nursing assistants, urging them to "use [their] creativity" to address workforce shortages in health care. 


Walz later outlined a $300 million public safety proposal that would go toward the hiring of more officers, improving 911 systems, and other initiatives depending upon the community. "We need concrete solutions with measurable results that keep Minnesotans safe and make sure justice is served," Walz said. 

Without providing specific numbers, Walz also called on legislators to fund more mental health counselors in schools - something Minneapolis union leaders partly went on strike over - and also says the state needs to add in-patient mental health units for kids in crisis. 

Pivoting to family benefits, Walz pushed for the passage of a paid family leave bill offering 12 weeks. "We know that people, when they have this, return to those employers and stay stronger," he said.

Legislative leaders have been deadlocked on the unemployment insurance issue in particular, causing an automatic tax increase on employers statewide after lawmakers missed a March 15 deadline.

Walz criticized the Legislature this week for not reaching an agreement, saying lawmakers should have settled both issues in January and that he would provide a path forward during his address.

“I’m going to call for us to get that done,” Walz said Wednesday. “Because the deadline is truly upon us and it’s simply fiscally irresponsible not to deal with it.”

Senate Republicans want to use $2.7 billion to refill the trust fund. But House Democrats have tied that to a $1 billion proposal to give $1,500 checks to frontline workers who braved the pandemic, up from $250 million agreed to by both sides last year that wasn’t doled out.

Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Thursday that legislative leaders expect to resume negotiations Monday. She said she’s optimistic they can reach a deal by April 30, which is when tax payments are due for employers.

A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.

The Democratic governor was also expected to highlight his proposed supplemental budget plan, which includes direct payments of $500 to single filers and $1,000 to joint filers that he’s dubbed “Walz checks." His proposal also includes a $2.7 billion infrastructure package, in addition to tax, education and public safety spending.

Walz's annual address was the last before he faces a stiff challenge from Republicans in the November election. 

He delivered the address in the House chamber for the first time since the pandemic started. In 2020, Walz taped a shortened version from the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, and he delivered last year's address from a classroom at Mankato West High School, where he taught before he was elected to the U.S. House.

During the final stretch of the legislative session, which adjourns on May 23, lawmakers will have to figure out how to use the state's $9.25 billion budget surplus and more than $1 billion in federal pandemic funds. The divided chambers remain far apart on spending and policy items. The GOP-controlled Senate is pushing for permanent income tax cuts, while House Democrats are seeking targeted tax credits and increases in spending.

KARE 11's Danny Spewak was on the House floor following Walz's address to gauge Republican sentiment.

"Be more ambitious," was the general take away from Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, who agreed with the need to address some of the pressing issues facing Minnesota, but ultimately felt Walz's commitments fell short of needed action along a variety of key policy areas.

"The state of the state is over taxed. You know, the governor referred to his ambitious agenda...unfortunately the State of the State comes so late in the process that most of the governor's agenda actually didn't meet deadlines in the House or the Senate, and it's actually dead here in the Legislature," he said. He went on to add, "This state needs permanent, meaningful tax relief in the pockets of Minnesotans...approximately the state is collecting 10% more than we need from tax payers. We could cut taxes 10% across the board and still meet our demands in state government. And imagine the incentive and the benefit to our state's economy if we could do something like that."

Daudt additionally felt the governor had failed to address public safety — citing rising crime — and specified that his $300M proposal did little to "hold criminals accountable or recruit more people into law enforcement, or support our current law enforcement."

Daudt cited a need for reform among Minnesota's education system, and said Democrats had "stood in the way of those kids getting the education they deserve," while also mentioning Minnesota's achievement gap. 

Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman David Hann echoed much of the same sentiments and issued the following statement Sunday evening: 

“Tonight, Governor Walz’s big-government, tax-and-spend agenda was on full display. Thanks to his approach, Minnesota’s income taxes are among the highest in the country and record-breaking inflation is crippling families and businesses. Violent crime is on the rise across the state. Graduation rates are falling. Workers and businesses are facing a massive tax increase because of Walz’s allies in the legislature...it is time for Minnesota to reject the failed tax-and-spend approach. Republican leadership offers the opportunity to advance real reform by investing our historic budget surplus in real tax reform, give parents a stronger voice in educating kids, and recruit and retain more police officers while cracking down on violent crime.” – Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman David Hann


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