Capitol Watch: Walz state of state address

For the second year in a row, the State of the State is fear according to Gov. Tim Walz. He delivered his State of the State speech Sunday night from a classroom at Mankato West High School. He was alone in the classroom because he just finished another week of self-quarantine. This is the second year in a row Walz chose to give the speech alone instead of from the dais in the House Chamber in front of the full legislature.
Tim Walz speaking from the bunker for a second straight year sums up his leadership on the pandemic: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
He delivered the 2020 version on April 5th alone in the governor’s residence. The speech was very short and full of the fearful rhetoric used to convince Minnesotans they needed to give up their freedoms for an entire year in order to stay alive and keep their families alive.We are bracing for a storm of epic proportions.We are used to long winters in Minnesota. But this will be a winter like we’ve never seen before.And as we have done for generations, once the tree limbs are stark and the sky a cold dark gray—we prepare.There’s no stopping the storm of COVID-19 from hitting Minnesota, but we are preparing for it.Long hours of darkness are ahead.We won’t be able to save everyone.It’s going to be a cold winter. With all of the COVID-19 metrics trending in the right direction, Walz actually sounded optimistic in his 2021 address using phrases like “the thaw is here,” “brighter days are here,” “we are winning the fight against COVID-19” and “normalcy is on the horizon.”
The optimism was tempered by Walz’s warning that COVID-19 cases are on the rise due to an increase in variants across the state. With the pandemic winding down, fear of variants is the latest scare tactic available to Walz, who last year purchased a morgue to ostensibly house an overflow of bodies that was about to overwhelm our funeral homes. Walz used the variant fear to plead with Minnesotans to get vaccinated saying: “Getting vaccinated is how we end this pandemic.”
Walz spent the next part of his speech doing what governors often do in State of the State speeches – bragging about how good we are in Minnesota.
“You sacrificed, you endured, and you saved lives.”
He congratulated us on making the sacrifices necessary to position Minnesota as a national leader in pandemic response, even though other states without COVID-19 mitigations in place had virtually the same exact results.
He congratulated our seniors, thanking them for their resilience and sacrifice and for “setting the example for bravery.” A bold line considering 80% of all COVID-19 deaths were Minnesotans over the age of 65, most in long term care regulated by his Department of Health.  
He congratulated bar and restaurant owners for their work helping to stop the spread, even as he indiscriminately shut them down for weeks at a time causing hundreds to close for good.
He congratulated Minnesota companies like Medtronic for making ventilators available, even though ventilator usage became one of the many things public health experts got wrong.  
He congratulated students and parents for getting through the school year saying 90% of our students are now back in school (fact check), even though by all accounts it has been a lost year for most public school students. His DFL allies in the legislature are still pushing to eliminate all testing this year to bury the data on just how bad our kids have fallen behind.
More protests anticipated
Walz used the next part of his speech on the other defining issue of his term as governor: the death of George Floyd and the riots that followed. The Governor quoted Martin Luther King Jr. calling for non-violent protests in reaction to the Derek Chauvin trial that begins this week.
“Winds of change blew thousands of Minnesotans into the streets last summer and inspired a movement across the world”
Unfortunately, Walz’s lack of leadership during this crisis also inspired a crime wave across the world. Hopefully this time he will recognize earlier that many “protesters” have no interest in non-violence.
Still holding on to tax increases
In the last part of his speech, Walz repeated his case to use the state budget to “level the playing field” after the pandemic, holding onto his tax increases on “the rich.” Walz also made a plug for his summer school funding and adding teachers of color to the classroom, even as his allies in the teachers’ union sabotage that legislation with new hurdles keeping minority teachers out of the classroom.  
Republican Reaction
Republican legislative leaders echoed Walz’s optimistic tone but urged him to end emergency powers and work with them on the state budget. They also strongly pushed back against Walz’s tax increases and urged him to do more than talk about tax relief for businesses receiving PPP loans.

This piece originally appeared in our Capitol Watch newsletter. Click here to receive the weekly Capitol Watch newsletter.