(Learfield News Service/St. Paul, MN) Let’s be different than Washington D-C, was the message Governor Tim Walz repeatedly hammered in his first State of the State address Wednesday night at the Capitol. “Let’s write our own story,” he said. “Let’s write a new story how this can end. Let’s do this in a way that others can look at and say, that’s the way out of this, and let’s do it because Minnesotans, we’ve always done it before.” Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka does not disagree with Walz on that. “I want Minnesota to be the state that actually solves health care…. Why not Minnesota be the one that leads to solve the answers for all other states?” Gazelka says. But he and Walz differ sharply over the solution. Republicans say a free market system will reduce health care costs while Walz says single-payer “Medicare for all” is his goal.
The governor also renewed his push for new money for roads and bridges during his State of the State address. One of his guests was a neighbor whose husband was killed in a head-on crash on Highway 14. Walz says, “In the 23 years since Charlie has died, that is still a two-lane dangerous road, and the time has passed to fix them. We can do that.” Senate Majority Leader Gazelka responds lawmakers *did* fund upgrades to Highway 14. “We did that with bonding, and we are open to spending more money on bonding, specifically towards roads and bridges. If there’s projects that are not getting done, we want to get ’em done,” he says. But Republicans strongly oppose the gas tax increase Walz is pushing for.
Adequate money for education was a recurring theme in the governor’s speech. He pointed to the Floodwood school district in northeast Minnesota, saying, “If their referendum fails, they will consolidate classes, close programs and lay off a quarter of their teachers. They have no other option.” House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt responded, “A great way to provide more revenue for that school district would be for the governor to remove his opposition to Enbridge Line 3. That line would go through that town and provide much-needed revenue for that school district.” Daudt says lawmakers can’t be so ready to increase taxes.