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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Walz touts progress, calls for more action on guns

David Colburn
Posted 3/27/24

REGIONAL- Gov. Tim Walz delivered his annual State of the State message on Tuesday evening with a new school in Owatonna serving as backdrop to highlight his administration’s accomplishments …

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Walz touts progress, calls for more action on guns


REGIONAL- Gov. Tim Walz delivered his annual State of the State message on Tuesday evening with a new school in Owatonna serving as backdrop to highlight his administration’s accomplishments for children and families.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done in our window of opportunity to improve education inside the walls of this school, and in every school across the state,” Walz said. “We’ve given our children a brighter future by making the largest investment in public education in our state’s history. Tonight, I’m proud to report that the state of our state is strong, Minnesota – because the kids of our state are better equipped to thrive.”
As part of that investment, Walz noted the efforts to increase teacher pay, recruit more teachers from diverse backgrounds, and to expand resources for students such as mental health services, career education and free school meals.
“We’ve expanded special education and career and technical education as part of our commitment to making sure every Minnesota student receives a world-class education, regardless of where they live or where they go to school,” Walz said.
Walz also emphasized efforts to strengthen academic achievement by implementing curriculum to ensure that every student can read at grade level, and to provide access to pre-Kindergarten programs and affordable child care.
Initiatives to make it easier for families to balance career and family responsibilities, including paid family and medical leave and a child tax credit to reduce child poverty, and to provide for food security were highlighted by Walz.
While Walz sought to highlight progress on education, he took time to note the work his administration has undertaken to advance economic growth, environmental protection, and infrastructure development to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.
On economic development, Walz noted investments to bring high-paying jobs to Minnesota, particularly in green energy sectors, and efforts to expand the right to organize and provide tax cuts for seniors.
Referring to an Alabama court’s recent ruling that a human embryo holds the same legal status as a human being, and to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, Walz reinforced his stand for reproductive rights.
“We took action after Roe v. Wade fell, writing protections for reproductive freedom into our state laws, and making sure that people – not politicians – can make their own reproductive choices. And that includes IVF (in vitro fertilization),” he said. “So let me make this clear: As long as I’m Governor, IVF will continue to offer a lifeline of hope for Minnesota families.”
Walz touched on public safety initiatives he has sought, both in regular budget initiatives and his proposed bonding bill.
“Our plan invests in making sure every community has safe streets,” he said. “Violent crime declined in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and across the state last year. Still, we take public safety seriously, and we’re putting real funding behind that commitment, including expanding capacity for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and planning for a new Minnesota State Patrol headquarters.”
The infrastructure investments Walz highlighted from his $989 million bonding proposal included projects for clean water, safe streets, affordable housing, and renovations to public buildings, with an emphasis on using union labor.
While the speech was long on accomplishments, Walz also took the opportunity to advocate for legislative action on gun safety, invoking the tragic deaths of Burnsville officers Matthew Ruge and Paul Elmstrand and firefighter/paramedic Adam Finseth in a Feb. 18 gun battle.
“This is a dangerous world. We were reminded of that this year when three of our bravest first responders lost their lives at the hands of a man with a gun he shouldn’t have had,” Walz said. “We know that we can’t legislate against every act of violence but surely we can do more. Tonight, I’m urging the Legislature to join me in making our schools – and our communities – a little bit safer still by strengthening requirements for safe storage of firearms, reporting lost and stolen guns, and increasing criminal penalties for straw purchasers. Asking our neighbors to keep their guns stored safely, and to report to law enforcement when their guns are lost or stolen, is a simple step that could save lives. And it’s high time we took that step here in Minnesota.”
Unlike the State of the Union address delivered by the President to Congress, there was no formal speech replying to Walz’s remarks from Republicans, but opposition party legislative leaders were quick to offer their own take on the DFL and Walz’s leadership, criticizing the growth in the state’s budget, the failure to provide Social Security tax relief, and the insufficient amount of $16 million Walz has proposed for emergency medical services when legislators have called for $120 million.
“We grew government in a way that is unsustainable,” House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said after the speech.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, countered Walz’s decidedly rosy picture of Minnesota. “Minnesotans overwhelmingly are saying that they don’t feel as if they’re better off in this generation as they were in the last,” he said, while noting a sense of pessimism about the performance of the state’s education system.