Walz gives 1st in-person State of the State address since start of pandemic
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz delivered his fourth State of the State address Sunday evening.
His speech before a joint session of the Minnesota Legislature was the first in-person State of the State address since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020.
Walz spoke for nearly an hour and highlighted several issues he’s plugged since the start of the legislative session and called on the split Legislature to “tackle the tough issues before them” and find a way to agree on how to spend the state’s $9.25 billion projected budget surplus.
The governor once again pitched one-time payments for Minnesota taxpayers and renewed urgency on reaching a compromise on pandemic front-line worker bonuses, or “hero checks,” as Walz referred to them.
“If we invest in our people, we can’t get it wrong,” Walz said. “That’s the opportunity we have in front of us.”
The $500 payments to individuals and $1,000 checks for married couples would cost an estimated $2 billion and would come out of the state’s surplus. Money for the “hero checks” would come from a combination of surplus and federal American Rescue Plan money.
After factoring in a plan to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance fund, Walz estimated $6 billion of the surplus would remain for other spending.
Senate Republicans have insisted on long-term tax relief rather than one-time rebates. In his speech Sunday night, Walz conceded that a tax cut for middle-class households was in order but cautioned against dialing back taxes for corporations and high earners.
“Cutting taxes for the wealthiest among us will not guarantee opportunities in Minnesota for the wider variety of folks, and it certainly won’t grow our economy from the middle out,” Walz said.
Republican leaders also disagreed with the governor’s three-year, $300 million plan to curb violent crime. Walz’s proposal includes $10 million for community-based policing grants.
House and Senate Republicans want $17 million of the budget surplus spent right away to hire, recruit and retain more law enforcement officers statewide.
Prior to the address, the Republican Governors Association issued this statement ahead of the Democratic governor’s speech:
“Amid record-breaking inflation, skyrocketing violent crime, and transparency in education at an all time low, Governor Tim Walz remains in lockstep with Joe Biden’s failed policies. Regardless of how Walz spins it, the State of his State is weak thanks to his reckless policies.”