'Era of gridlock is over' at Minnesota Capitol, Walz says at 2nd inauguration
The governor said he and fellow Democrats in the House and Senate will aim to make the largest investment in education in the state's history.
ST. PAUL — At his second inauguration on Monday, Jan. 2, Gov. Tim Walz said voters had sent a clear message in the last election: they are tired of inaction at the capitol and gave Democrats complete control of state government to take action on key issues.
After taking the oath of office from Judge Johnathan Judd, Walz delivered a speech on his administration's goals in the next year to a packed Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. The governor, who was elected to his second term in office in November, said he and fellow Democrats in the House and Senate, where the DFL now has majorities, in the coming months will aim to make the largest investment in education in the state's history.
"I’ll work with anyone who’s willing to work with me to get things done — because Minnesotans spoke clearly this last election, and they expect all of us to do just that: get things done," he said. "The era of gridlock is over. Minnesotans have chosen hope over fear, fact over fiction, and action over excuses. Our path is clear. It’s time to lead."
Democratic lawmakers and the governor have long talked of "fully funding" education in Minnesota, and Walz said more details would come when his administration releases a budget in the coming weeks that will place children and families "at the center." Walz said his education funding plan will include universal school lunch, boosting funding for special education, boosting funding for student mental health services, and funding programs to train new teachers from diverse backgrounds. He also called for a ban on conversion therapy, the practice of attempting to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Beyond his education plans, Walz said he will work with state lawmakers to push for the state to become carbon neutral, codify abortion access protections into law, and pass "common sense" gun control legislation.
The governor also made his appeal once again to give part of the state's historic $17.6 billion surplus to Minnesotans through one-time checks of $1,000 per individual and $2,000 per family.
Walz does not have any control over legislative priorities, though he told reporters his speech was to communicate a "respectful desire" for legislative Democrats to move forward on certain issues. The governor and Democratic lawmakers share many priorities, including protecting abortion rights and boosting education funding, but it's yet to be seen exactly what the policies will look like. State senators and representatives return to the capitol on Tuesday, and the House is already scheduled to hold a hearing on an abortion rights bill on Thursday.
The 2022 legislative session ended with few bills being passed, largely because the Republican-controlled Senate and DFL-controlled house could not reach any agreement on major legislation on taxes, public safety and education. But this year will look a lot different now that the DFL also controls the House.
"Now is the time to be bold and build a bright future for all Minnesotans. Now is the time to deliver," Walz said in his address, later adding: "We are not here to score political points. We are not here for victory laps. We are here to improve lives. We have a moment — and it’s not about which party won or which party is in control; this moment is about our opportunity to work collaboratively and get things done for Minnesotans."
Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan were not the only statewide officials who won reelection in November and started their second terms on Monday. Attorney General Keith Ellison and State Auditor Julie Blaha took the oath of office for their second terms. and Secretary of State Steve Simon began his third term as the state's top elections administrator.
Simon in his speech called for changes to state election laws to make it easier for Minnesotans to vote, including automatic voter registration, something Walz said he also supports. Simon said he was proud of Minnesota’s status as a national leader in voter turnout, and his efforts to expand access to mail in voting during the pandemic.
Ellison touted his record on consumer protection, including fighting for affordable insulin and taking part in multi-state litigation against pharmaceutical companies for the opioid addiction epidemic. He said he would continue to use his office to pursue civil action against gun retailers who fail to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Ellison was sworn in by newly confirmed U.S. District Court Judge Jerry Blackwell, an attorney who worked on Ellison’s office’s prosecution of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
DFLers have controlled every statewide office in Minnesota since 2011, though control of the Senate and House has generally changed hands between Democrats and Republicans. Starting this year, Democrats will now have complete control of state government — all the statewide offices and both chambers of the Legislature.