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Dayton says now is the time invest for state's future

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton outlined an ambitious agenda in his first State of the State address on Wednesday, calling for greater investments in areas such as education and transportation to revive the state’s economy.

But lawmakers will not find out until next week how the governor plans to pay for those investments while also solving the state’s $6.2 billion budget deficit.

Dayton is slated to release his budget plan on Feb. 15. During Wednesday's address, the Democrat made clear that he believes the key to improving Minnesota’s economy rests with making key investments.

"To progress, we have to invest. We have to invest in jobs; in education; in transportation; in the health of our people, communities, and environment; and in the transformation of government," Dayton said.

He vowed to increase K-12 education funding every year he is in office. He also called on lawmakers to pass his $1 billion public works proposal, saying it would create 28,000 jobs. The governor also renewed his call for a tax increase on wealthier Minnesotans to help solve the state’s budget crisis.


"I ask Minnesota’s business leaders and other most successful citizens to give us two years to turn this ship of state around. Not by savaging essential public services, upon which you and your employees also depend, but rather by transforming the ways in which government operates here in Minnesota," Dayton said.

And while his speech called for bipartisanship, Republicans made clear they are concerned about several of the governor’s agenda items.

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he found the speech the most negative he has heard during his 10 terms in the House. He said he was particularly disturbed that the governor is continuing to talk about raising taxes.

"His policies are contradictory in that he says he wants businesses to be here but why would they come? Why would they stay?" Davids asked. "Why would they expand when he is going to hit them the hardest?"

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, had a very different view of the speech. She said she appreciated the call for bipartisanship and investment in education.

"I thought he did a very good job. I thought it was in some ways very inspirational as far as setting a good tone for bipartisan efforts to actually solve the problems the state faces," Poppe said.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said the governor did bring up some issues where there is bipartisan agreement. That includes support for efforts to streamline the permitting process for business. But she questioned how the governor plans to boost spending at a time when the state is facing a financial crisis. She said now is not the time to borrow money or raise taxes.

"You can’t argue with the things (the governor) said as far as the importance of education, transportation and certainly reviving the construction industry," Nelson said. "The question is how do you play for it all? We’re all looking forward to seeing his budget."

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