Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is showing he is willing to work together with Republicans, but will vigorously defend what he believes is needed to turn Minnesota around from the “mess” he and the current Minnesota Legislature inherited.
From his State of the State speech last week, Dayton emerged as a leader and defender of essential services, even it will take an increase in the income tax on the state’s top wage earners to do it. He urged Republican legislators to work together with him to make Minnesota great again.
He realizes the state needs to be fixed and he warned his budget to be unveiled this week will be painful but necessary to dig the state out of a $6.2 billion budget hole.
Minnesotans are with him as he declares he will do everything possible to avoid any shutdown of state government, a reference to a Republican committee that held a hearing to prepare for a possible shutdown.
He asked Republicans who control both houses to forget partisan posturing and narrow agendas and pledge to the people that they will not shut down their government.
Republican leaders have responded that they see shutting down the government as a last resort.
The rubber, however, will meet the road when Dayton rolls out his budget Feb. 15, which is sure to have a line item to tax the top 2 percent of the state’s richest people, and hinted it could be short term.
Dayton never mentioned taxes, but an increase will be necessary if he is to live up to his promise of giving more dollars to K–12 education, topping the list of “investments” to make Minnesota great again.
He wants five major investments in order to get Minnesota working again: more jobs; education; transportation; health of citizens, communities and environment; and transformation of government services.
Republican leaders were quick to call ‘investments’ spending of money the state doesn’t have and said they don’t intend to support tax increases.
Dayton, however, sees hope that he and Republicans can come together to turn the state around from “a horrendous fiscal mess, a decade of economic decline and state agencies poorly managed.”
Suburban and outstate communities will welcome more funds for K–12 education, particularly for early childhood education and the option of every-day kindergarten. This comes at a time, he noted, when 10 school districts have gone to four-day weeks to save transportation funds — not for educational purposes.
Minnesotans will support his goal to have children reading by third grade.
Dayton said there has been too much battering of teachers by those who say they lack commitment, ability and effectiveness. He said that’s not true, but added he is not satisfied with every aspect of education.
The big question will be how involved the people who elected Republican majorities and a DFL governor will get in the law-making process and how often they will contact their legislators to bring about the compromises that will be needed to avoid a government shutdown. — Don Heinzman, ECM Publishers