Eight observations from Gov. Walz’s State of the State speech

Back to normal
Tonight’s speech was more like his first SOTS in 2019 where he introduced a number of guests and voiced support for a vague legislative agenda. His speech in 2020 was a dark message from the bunker during the height of COVID, calling it “a winter like we’ve never seen before” and warning “long hours of darkness are ahead.” His 2021 speech was given at Mankato West High School and mostly focused on the COVD pandemic. 

Sunday night event fails to interest lawmakers
There were lots of empty seats in the House chamber, probably because he decided to make the speech on a Sunday night. A cynic might point out that Sunday press events like this get better coverage on TV because there is nothing else happening in the political world and the more sophisticated Capitol press are replaced with the weekend crew. 

Walz reelect message
Walz began his speech with what will likely become his reelection message:

  • Our budget reserves are at record high and COVID infections are at record lows
  • We have the 5th lowest unemployment rate, the 3rd highest job growth, and high labor participation rates
  • Insulin is free for those who need it
  • We passed historic increases in education spending, the largest jobs bill in state history, and we cut taxes for the middle class, the first middle class tax cut in 20 years

Give It Back
Perhaps reacting to the hundreds of Minnesotans who attended the Give It Back rally at the Capitol Saturday, Walz talked about tax cuts in the early part of his speech. He reiterated his call for one-time rebates but also said he was open to permanent middle class tax cuts. Unfortunately, he continues to divide Minnesotans by class insisting that “massive corporations and the wealthiest” don’t need a tax cut. By massive corporations, does he mean Target, 3M, Medtronic, Cargill and The Mayo Clinic? The companies that employ thousands of Minnesotans? One Minnesota is alive and well.

Out of touch on crime
Walz called the crime wave moving across the state a “tough and perplexing issue,” but offered no support to end the revolving door of justice. He proposed no changes to sentencing that would actually put repeat violent offenders in prison. Instead, he focused on spending for local governments and non-profits and promised to “get tough on the causes of crime,” such as mental health and addiction issues. While he was delivering these remarks, the CrimeWatchMpls Twitter account reported multiple car jackings in Minneapolis, proving how out of touch his liberal approach to crime remains.

Spend, spend, spend
Walz outlined billions of dollars in spending during the speech, repeating many of the proposals he’s put forward this session. 

While acknowledging historic spending increases in the last budget for K-12 education, Walz said “we have the opportunity with this budget to fully fund our schools the way we need to.” No one has yet put a price tag on fully funding our schools but I’m sure his most important political ally (Education Minnesota) appreciated the shout out. Walz also declared that every kid deserves a breakfast and a lunch at school, paid for by the taxpayers. Where does this line of thinking end?

Walz promoted massive new spending for a paid family leave program, somehow arguing it would make good economic sense to tax every employer and employee, set up a huge new government bureaucracy and offer a benefit many people will never take advantage of. 

Other spending proposals included childcare subsidies, early childhood education, mental health supports in schools and youth mental health beds in the community.

According to Walz’s own budget office, his revised two-year budget now spends $60.7 billion dollars, leaving only $257,000 on the bottom line. Remember this fact when he warns of the long-term dangers of permanent tax cuts. 

Low hanging fruit
Walz called on the legislature to tackle two relatively easy issues: restore the unemployment trust fund and send hero pay to front line workers. Instead of criticizing Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman for not passing the UI bill, he endorsed her strategy of linking the two issues together saying, “we have a couple things that fit together.” They fit together only if you want to leverage one issue to get your way on the other. This is one of the big problems with legislative negotiating – linking everything together and trading one issue for another.

Climate change
Walz made a very weak and vague pitch to fight climate change saying this is not an issue that forces us to choose between ideologies and the free market is leading the way to solutions. He declined, however, to mention his proposal to adopt California fuel standards, which will raise the cost of gas in Minnesota from 22 to 50 cents per gallon.

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