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Walz to urge lawmakers to listen to their 'better angels' in State of the State address

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, March 28, 2019, said he would negotiate with Republicans about his budget proposal but wouldn't bend on extending a tax on medical providers that funds health care for low-income people. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers get to set the stage for the legislative session in the state's only divided government, and Gov. Tim Walz said he hopes they'll listen to their "better angels" as they do so.

In his first State of the State address Wednesday, April 3, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor said he'll focus on the importance of working across the political aisle to get things done.

The speech is set to come a day after House Democrats pitched a plan to support Walz's proposed 20-cent-per-gallon tax hike on gasoline and a GOP-led Senate panel voted it down, setting up a bumpy path forward for the proposal.

And while leaders in the DFL-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-led Senate have presented budget pitches and slates of proposals that make compromise appear unlikely, they've said it's not out of the question.

“The way we go about this will impact how (the people) see our state," Walz told Forum News Service on Tuesday, April 2. “If we’re going to write our own story, let’s write one about how we got together and made it work."

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the relationship between legislative leaders and Walz was in a "good spot" and he hoped the governor's comments would reflect that.

“I think it’s important that he continues to set a positive tone," Gazelka said. "It can get negative around here when you don’t get the things you want to get in divided government, that’s sort of the nature of it."

Walz said he was prepared to keep it positive and to challenge lawmakers to prove to the country that divided government can work.

"This speech is going to talk about, I hope, our better angels and who people are," Walz said. "I believe the folks came here to try and improve lives. And I would hope that everyone is taking that divided government challenge seriously."

Walz's office noted that for the first time, three chaplains of different faiths would deliver the invocation ahead of the speech. Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel in Minneapolis, Imam Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota and Bishop Patricia Lull of Saint Paul Area Synod will deliver the invocation together.

The governor's speech is set to begin Wednesday at 7 p.m.