Despite a divided state government and tough economic times, Gov. Mark Dayton is optimistic.
Dayton painted a positive picture of Minnesota’s future in his second State of the State address Wednesday night, addressing a Republican-controlled Legislature and other high-ranking state officials.
The governor stressed the importance of job creation, education and fiscal responsibility. Beginning with an anecdote about his father being a good steward to the state, Dayton questioned if the state’s current leaders would be remembered the same way.
“The answer is for us to decide.”
In general, Dayton’s speech was positive but still reminded legislators of the state’s priorities. He stressed the importance of higher education, which he said ties in strongly with growing the state.
University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler received a standing ovation as Dayton urged legislators to support funding for the University and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities members, which were each cut by almost 15 percent last session.
“Our postsecondary students need more than degrees; they need the world’s best education so they can thrive in that world. And Minnesota will not thrive unless they do.”
Kaler said he was impressed with the governor’s speech and thought it promoted the University.
“I think the idea of investing in higher education and the U and MnSCU is exactly the direction we need to go.”
Also, Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, who represents the University’s district, said Dayton’s speech was a step in the right direction.
“I think it was a good speech. I agree with him on higher education,” she said. “I think we do need to find more funding. If we want to grow the region and [get] jobs here we need an educated workforce.”
Dziedzic also emphasized easing the burden of tuition on students.
“We need to be able to afford to go to school.”
Although the speech was mostly hopeful, the governor did criticize some Republican legislators.
Within 10 minutes of the beginning of his speech, Dayton took a stab at the proposed “right-to-work” amendment in the Legislature. Dayton also questioned the intentions of some legislators to hold off on a Vikings stadium deal until after the November elections.
The governor outlined three of his initiatives that he said would boost jobs: The bonding bill, the stadium bill and his “Jobs Now” bill were all major priorities.
“Those are the bills I will support,” Dayton said. “I am not interested in highly partisan, extreme measures, which are intended for campaign literature, rather than law.”
The “Jobs Now” bill would offer tax credits to businesses that hire veterans, unemployed Minnesotans and recent college graduates.
Dayton encouraged legislators to pass all three of those pieces this session.
In a response, Republican leadership wasn’t overly critical of the speech but still questioned how realistic Dayton’s proposals are, especially the Vikings stadium.
Beyond specific issues, Dayton spoke strongly on the need for compromise.
“If we cooperate, if we share our best ideas, if we exchange our rigid ideologies for our shared ideals, we will revitalize our state. And we will be doing the jobs the people of Minnesota sent us there to do.”
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