During his first State of the State address this week, Gov. Tim Walz urged Minnesota’s lawmakers, and himself, to write their own story, different from the story of Washington D.C. In true teacher, coach and recent campaigner fashion, the speech felt like a half-time, pump ‘em up call to action.
Referencing one individual Minnesotan story after another, the Governor made his case for a budget plan that invests heavily in education, health care and transportation. He also made slight nods to rural housing and child care needs.
He reiterated a statement he used to close out his campaign last fall: “Minnesotans don’t fear the future, we create the future.”
Absent from his speech was a call for action on number progressive policy initiatives that he’s publicly supported and that are making their way through the House process where the new DFL majority is flexing their muscle. Reading between the lines of his speech there seemed to be a tone of compromise and a willingness to cut deals on taxes and spending.
Some reacted to the Governor’s speech thinking he was negotiating against himself and needed to dig in harder. Others see a former rural Congressman work his strengths in the role of governor and that he wants to bring the lost art of wheeling and dealing back to state governance.
Time will tell if Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka goes for this approach. The question is how long will the Senate GOP dig in against Walz and the House DFL. Recent history suggests that special sessions aren’t very special anymore and there’s a belief that the process always ends in extra innings.
However, it could work out that Sen. Gazelka figures cutting a budget deal that includes some new gas tax and general fund tax revenue as a trade against the DFL’s policy agenda in time for a May 20 finish is a win. House Speaker Melissa Hortman may go for it as the DFL gets progress on their desired budget and they can draw a stark contrast between their agenda and the Senate GOP agenda with an eye toward what they hope will be a tie-breaker election in 2020.
Where do we stand? View side-by-side summary by key issues.
The next few weeks will bring the continued grind of the House and Senate committees and floor debate as they solidify their negotiating positions for conference committee. The three camps have a goal of providing conference committees with budget targets by May 6. History shows that isn’t likely, but with a new governor, perhaps we’ll see a different approach.