Walz inaugural speech long on promises, short on results

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Elections have consequences. Minnesota Democrats ran the table in the 2022 election and take over the Capitol today with control of the House, Senate, and Governor’s office. When this happened in 2013, Democrats created a new top tier for the income tax, raised the minimum wage, gave illegal immigrants access to state college grants, expanded eligibility for state healthcare, gutted school accountability and enshrined gay marriage into state law. 

What can we expect in 2023? After running most of their ads in the 2022 election on the issue of abortion, their mandate for governing is not obvious beyond that issue. Abortion was top of mind for many voters in November and Democrats clearly have a mandate for action. But what does that look like? The Doe vs. Gomez decision in 1995 already guarantees Minnesota a state version of the Roe vs. Wade privacy “right.” And a recent lawsuit challenging most restrictions to abortion prevailed in Ramsey County last July. These court actions give Minnesota the most liberal abortion laws in the country. Watch for Democrats to spend a lot of time and energy on a mostly symbolic effort to “enshrine” the results of these decisions into state law. They could also take it a step further by proposing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. Abortion was unrestricted in Minnesota before the session, abortion will be unrestricted in Minnesota after the session. Congratulations. 

After abortion, the 2022 election does not give us (or the ruling Democrats) much direction on what Minnesotans expect from state government. Polling right up to election day still showed public safety and inflation to be top priorities, but voters certainly did not take those into the voting booth.

Walz promises more inputs in inaugural speech

Gov. Tim Walz began his second inaugural speech yesterday by reciting the accomplishments of his first term. For Walz, accomplishments are less about results and more about investments and partnerships. He talked of “significant investments in health, healthcare, early education and K-12 schools.” Significant investments are inputs, not outputs. Just because you spend taxpayer money to address a problem does not mean you are successful. As a matter of fact, state-run programs in these areas regularly make things worse. 

“We formed public-private partnerships to address housing and homelessness,” said Walz. Again, the accomplishment is the creation of partnerships, not actual progress on the issues. The Governor did “accomplish” lower insulin prices, but he did that by forcing drug companies to hand over their products at a price determined by government. He ended this section of his speech bragging about “the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the history of our country.” While true, this metric is nothing to be proud of considering Minnesota’s lackluster job growth and workforce issues. 

After reciting his “accomplishments,” Walz pivoted to new promises for his second term. Unfortunately, the Governor is still stuck on inputs. After admitting that our students have fallen behind because of the pandemic, Walz promised to make “the largest investment in public education in our state’s history.” More money without accountability or reform will not help Minnesota students recover academically from the pandemic. Walz either hasn’t read the research or simply cares more about the teachers’ union than the students. 

Next, he promised to fund special education, fund programs to recruit diverse teachers and provide universal meals for students so “no one carries a lunch ticket.” All inputs. None proven to improve academic achievement. He also promised to ban conversion therapy, a solution chasing a non-existent problem, because “LGBTQ+ students are perfect just the way you are.”

When it comes to taxes, Walz is already backing off his promise to deliver rebate checks to Minnesotans with the $17.6 billion surplus. “Let’s send a little money back in the form of a check to families so that they can have a little spending money. If we can. I’d like to try and do that,” said Walz. Such a weak ask on behalf of the taxpayers. Let’s send a LITTLE money back, so they can have a LITTLE spending money. If we can. I’d like to try. That sends a signal to House and Senate DFLers that he’s already willing to give the rebate idea up. Predictable but sad. 

Walz also promised to “make our energy carbon free by 2040.” As we have written extensively, Walz’s renewable energy mandate will cost every Minnesota electric customer $3,888 per year in higher energy costs. House and Senate Republicans should be ready to question this plan as it goes through committee. Where will the precious metals come from to build the solar and wind infrastructure, including the electric vehicles? How much will it cost to build the charging stations and grid infrastructure? How will the state avoid blackouts if we move away from reliable sources like coal and natural gas? It would be nice if someone in the Minnesota media would ask Walz these questions, but we can’t count on that. 

Democrats in the legislature also have big plans for an expansive social agenda. House Speaker Melissa Hortman will be pushed hard by liberals in her caucus to deliver on abortion, marijuana legalization, sports betting, conversion therapy, felon voting, driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and gun control. A better Minnesota indeed. But as we said at the start, elections have consequences. 

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