Tom Emmer column: Losing Minnesota

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer

At the outset of this pandemic, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz took important steps to safeguard our state. His original stay at home order was prudent. We slowed the spread and allowed our hospital system the important time to prepare. We learned many valuable lessons about the virus, its spread, and the modeling we relied on to set our course.

Following his May 13 statewide address, Gov. Walz has attempted to thread a needle instead of leading by example, losing me and thousands of Minnesotans in the process.

We had an opportunity to be a model for the nation by developing a clear and consistent Minnesota strategy for opening the economy. Instead Gov. Walz has implemented a “maddeningly complex” approach that lumps Redwood and Lake Counties with Hennepin and Ramsey, and pits bars and restaurants against churches and salons in the race to gain his approval to reopen.

The unemployment rate in some of the counties with the lowest rates of spread is over 30%. Restaurants with outdoor dining capabilities won the lottery, but those without it remain shuttered. For Minnesota’s religious institutions, Archbishop Hebda and the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod in Minnesota have been compelled by the governor’s incoherent and inequitable restrictions to make it clear that worship can and must resume. This is no way to run a state.

Our state and our economy was never designed to be run from on high, regardless of the circumstances. As a result, our citizens’ economic, mental and spiritual well-being are being pushed to their limits by these patchwork policies that -- at this point -- will likely do little to slow the spread.


I have heard Gov. Walz complain that the Trump Administration should be setting a national strategy for reopening and that since the administration has not, Minnesota must chart its own way. I believe this is a gross misinterpretation. Yes, Minnesota must chart its own way, but that is the way it should be. We are a constitutional republic and our constitution is clear on the enumeration of powers. President Trump and his administration have taken a constitutionally sound approach to allow each state to determine the best course for its citizens.

The CDC and other administration officials have released guidelines to help states make these determinations. As we have learned more about how COVID-19 spreads and its effects on certain demographic groups -- people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity -- those guidelines have changed. The guidelines have followed the science, which is what Walz says he does with such conviction on any and every issue.

Minnesota had an opportunity to follow the science and lead the nation. Instead Gov. Walz and his advisors chose a different path -- one that has brought us a haphazard reopening that is creating confusion, frustration, and anger.

Our state is not completely lost, but we need Gov. Walz to lead. We need a coherent strategy that gives every Minnesotan a clear understanding of when they can open their business and when they can go back to work. Employees and employers in every sector of our economy need guidance and protections to figure out how best to resume their operations. And the governor must recognize that what may be necessary for the Twin Cities may not be needed in greater Minnesota.

Above all else and as we approach June 1, I hope Gov. Walz will realize that -- given the opportunity -- Minnesotans can and should be trusted to do the right thing.

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican, represents Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District in the U.S. House.

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