Different approach, same messageGov. Mark Dayton took a kinder, gentler approach in his Wednesday night State of the State speech, but his message still was the same as in recent public comments when he harshly criticized Republicans.
By: Don Davis and Danielle Nordine, The Republican Eagle
ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton took a kinder, gentler approach in his Wednesday night State of the State speech, but his message still was the same as in recent public comments when he harshly criticized Republicans.
“If we cooperate, if we share our best ideas, if we exchange our rigid ideologies for our shared ideals, we will revitalize our state,” Dayton said in a packed Minnesota House chamber.
“I appreciate his general willingness to work together,” Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said. “He set a good tone.”
The governor delivered the speech in front of joint session of the Minnesota Legislature, with most of the 201 lawmakers there.
But Dayton made it clear on Wednesday that he feels GOP lawmakers are not consulting him enough.
“I am not interested in highly partisan, extreme measures, which are intended for campaign literature rather than law,” he said, as Republicans sat sober-faced.
Lawmakers interrupted Dayton with applause 25 times, often with just the Democratic-Farmer-Labor side of the chamber clapping.
Dayton never specifically declared his opinion on the overall condition of Minnesota, although he said things are going better economically than in other states.
“There is actually a ray of hope here,” Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing echoed.
While Minnesota’s shift toward growth is promising, there is still a distance to go before things are back to normal, lawmakers said. For example, unemployment numbers are improving but are still high.
“We’re doing better than the national average, but the national average is not very good,” Kelly said.
Dayton said that encouraging job growth is his top priority.
“So I say to legislators, let’s take your best ideas and my best ideas and turn them into jobs,” he said. “And let’s do it now.”
Dayton said that passing a public works bill could create 21,700 jobs, but it would be worthwhile even at half that number.
He also promoted a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but offered no new ideas about how to bridge gaps such as how to fund it or where it should be built.
“Pass the stadium bill this session,” Dayton pleaded. “Please.”
The governor also concurred with Republicans on the need for government reforms.
But he does not support some ideas such as Rep. Steve Drazkowski’s proposed constitutional amendment making Minnesota a “right-to-work” state. The change would mean Minnesotans could opt out of joining unions or paying dues at their workplace.
Some left the 28-minute speech disappointed with the scope. Many lawmakers said they hoped Dayton would offer more concrete policy ideas, while others said he missed some important topics.
“He could have laid out a bigger vision for Minnesota, especially when it comes to energy needs,” Howe said.
Dayton praised his administration’s efforts, in cooperation with lawmakers, to speed up state permitting processes that in the past have delayed business expansion.
He said work last year should continue this year.
The governor said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency helped speed permits, and the Agriculture Department saved taxpayers $300,000 while shortening most grain and produce license renewal waits to less than 30 days.
While noting education advances legislators and he approved last year, Dayton sounded less than optimistic the trend will continue.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.