Gov Dayton Delivers State of the State Speech
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton has jokingly described his top priorities for the legislative session as "everything."
But in a State of the State speech Thursday, Dayton made clear that steering more money to education and transportation are atop his agenda. Lawmakers have less than six weeks to finish their session, so Dayton used his address to emphasize key issues.
Specifically, Dayton is trying to create a preschool initiative that would give all four-year-olds access to high-quality programs at no cost to their parents. On higher education, the governor is pushing to continue undergraduate tuition freezes for two more years.
Transportation carries more political division. Dayton wants to raise taxes to support road, bridge and transit work; Republicans want to tap into existing revenue streams and the state surplus.
Dayton also gave a glowing rundown on Minnesota's economy while voicing concerns about troubles in the steel and turkey industries.
Dayton made mention of the 1,100 layoffs coming to the northeastern Minnesota Iron Range when some taconite plants are idled. And he says the avian flu outbreak hitting some farms in the nation's leading producer of turkeys.
Dayton hinted that some state help could be coming their way, but didn't elaborate.
Democratic allies largely cheered the points he made Thursday night. Republicans who have been cool to the governor's transportation proposal and overall spending levels say they were unmoved.
Republicans mostly remained seated and quiet as Dayton laid out his priorities, while Democrats rose and applauded him several times.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk predicted Dayton would finish the session with many of his agenda items enacted in some fashion, though even he said they would probably be scaled back.
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt took comfort that Dayton didn't blast GOP plans for tax cuts and said a final deal must contain at least some.