ST. PAUL, MN — In his first week as Minnesota’s 41st governor, Tim Walz says he’s aiming to ensure communities outside the metro area are represented fairly at Minnesota’s capital.
That includes Duluth, as well as the rest of Northeastern Minnesota.
In a one-on-one interview with Governor Walz, one of his biggest messages was when communities outside the Twin Cities thrive, the entire state thrives.
He says it doesn’t matter if it’s a city of 100, or 100,000, as it’s all part of moving Minnesota forward with his “One Minnesota” message.
“If Duluth is thriving, and has a robust infrastructure, well we all benefit from that,” said the newly sworn-in Democratic Governor.
While many Duluth projects got funding in 2018’s legislative session, lawmakers in our area still felt shunned as some did not. That includes Mayor Emily Larson’s Street Improvement Plan, which was nowhere to be found in any bill. As well as the nearly $200 million ask from Essentia to reshape Duluth’s downtown medical district, which was ultimately shot down when then Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the tax bill it was in.
“Duluth did get left out of that. That did happen,” said Gov. Walz, who added many areas outside the Twin-Cities/Metro area also got left out.
Governor Walz, who is from Mankato, is Minnesota’s first governor, to be from outside the metro in nearly 40 years. Rudy Perpich, who was born in Hibbing, was the last. Perpich served separate terms in both the ’70s and 80’s.
Gov. Walz said, since he’s from outside the metro area, he knows all too well the importance of all cities having equal representation at the Capital.
“What you can start to see is proposals that bind us closer together,” he said.
Walz said that starts with Local Government Aid.
“I reject this notion that we divide one area over the other. I understand that if we pay taxes in Mankato, and some of those dollars goes to Duluth, that’s a good thing. One of the things we’re proposing is directing some of those dollars to Local Government Aid, into the hands of the people who are closest to the decisions that need to be made–folks that are elected right in the community,” said Gov. Walz.
Walz said he wants to put an end to cities having to come up with creative ways to fund projects, much like Duluth is trying to do with the street improvement plan.
“The folks I listen to the closest are those mayors, those city councilors, and those county commissioners. They have to get the work done. There’s no hiding behind grand, ideological things. The roads need to be done, the water treatment needs to be done, the roof on the school needs to be fixed. So, all of those local folks I feel very strongly about,” he said.
Building a stronger Minnesota won’t happen overnight.
But Walz’s hope is that building stronger communities is the first step.
Walz says projects like the street improvement plan and Essentia’s $200 million ask to reshape downtown Duluth’s medical district, are important.
Both were left out in 2018.
For the third time in as many years, 2018’s legislative session came to a chaotic end. Walz says during his governance, he wants to see those chaotic finishes come to an end.
In addition, Walz says if the legislature works effectively early on, we shouldn’t see those issues arise late in the session.
He said he doesn’t want to abuse veto power, but if bills come forward that are good for areas like Duluth, but underfund things like education or drop people off of health care, he will veto them.
Walz will also be focusing on statewide issues that will impact Duluth, which includes better mental health treatment, better access to affordable health care, and bridging the urban-rule divide.
We’ve uploaded our full interview with Governor Walz for you below: