What Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said in his State of the State address Thursday night generally energized Democrats and brought criticism from Republicans. But the Governor was also chided by lawmakers from both parties for some of the things he didn’t talk about.
Dayton’s main themes of moving ahead on education and transportation now while the state was in financial position to do so drew enthusiastic applause from DFL lawmakers during the speech and afterwards.
“I thought he was right on the money with his priorities on education and transportation and clean water and things a lot of Minnesotans share,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen. “And he’s right we should act now and not wait.”
“We’ve got a really rare opportunity right now to think about our future and investing,” said Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul) “And I love his emphasis on kids. I’m really grateful that he’s talking about infrastructure and transportation And I just hope in these next five weeks we can make some headway for the people of Minnesota.”
With Republicans holding a majority in the House, advancing Dayton’s agenda will take negotiation. Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL- Minneapolis) says the public will need to get involved if those items are to pass. “It’s really important that citizens get active and engaged so that we can push a progressive agenda through the legislative session in the next five weeks.”
The unmentioned gas tax, other things that were left out, plus video of legislators reaction
Previously, Dayton has proposed a wholesale gas tax dedicated to repairing and upgrading Minnesota’s aging transportation system. Republicans have proposed using general fund money to pay for a less ambitious plan to fix roads and bridges. Dayton sees the Republican plan as robbing other needs to pay for fixing the roads. He would rather do both.
“Reallocating General Fund dollars to pay for essential transportation improvements will inevitably pit those needs against educating our children; caring properly for for our elderly; enhancing our natural resources; fulfilling the important promises of the Working Parents Act; and providing quality, affordable health care for all our citizens,” Dayton told the gathering of legislators.
“People should not be pitted against projects. Both are too important.”
And while Dayton didn’t use the phrase “gas tax” in his speech lawmakers from both parties knew that is what he was alluding to when he talked about transportation funding. Senate Minority Leader David Hann said Dayton wants to raise the gas tax by 16 cents a gallon. “We don’t think that makes any sense at all,” Rep. Hann said. Hann alluded to the latest state economic forecast which credited some of Minnesota’s economic recovery to lower gas prices. “Why you would… put a huge gas tax on top of that when it’s unnecessary, we don’t understand that.”
Dayton’s speech was his second shortest State of the State address, clocking in at about 30 minutes. Although nobody complained about the brevity, legislators from both parties wanted Dayton to say more about other topics.
Rep. Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin) said he was “disappointed” that Dayton “completely ignored some things that are huge issues for people in my district. I was puzzled why there was no mention of things like nursing home care, disabled care, elderly care. It’s almost like the issues we still face in the health care and MNsure don’t exist.”
Democrats also wished Dayton had talked about more topics. Rep. Ray Dehn (D-Minneapolis) said he applauded what Dayton did talk about, but “I have some things like felon voting restoration, appropriately funding corrections so that we can work on something to reduce the number of people that are actually incarcerated in Minnesota.”
Senator John Marty (D- Roseville) would also like to see action this session on voter restoration. “I want to see that happen. I was down in Selma with my dad. We marched there last month. We see how hard the struggle was to give people the right to vote. And we haven’t done anything to improve that now. We have so many people who aren’t eligible to vote because of that, it’s time to restore the vote.”
Marty says the voter restoration issue has bipartisan support “but a lot of people are very scared that somehow this is going to hurt them. I think people understand ‘no taxation without representation.’ Let’s give people representation.”
Video at top: Democrats comment on Governor Dayton’s State of the State address
Video below: Republicans comment on Governor Dayton’s State of the State address