Governor Mark Dayton’s final State of the State address Wednesday night spotlighted sharp differences between lawmakers over how the state should tailor its budget to federal tax cuts. The governor got applause from some lawmakers when he pointed out the state and federal government both reduced corporate taxes and “combined they provide huge tax cuts to Minnesota businesses. And presumably, it was a somewhat different group of lawmakers who applauded when Dayton said, “Our number one priority, which will be reflected in my budget on Friday, should be tax fairness for individual Minnesotans and their families.”
Dayton made no apologies for raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans: “Minnesota has not been a low tax state during my career. And it’s fortunate because states with the lowest taxes generally rank among the lowest in per capita income, household income, educational attainment, homeownership and public health.” House Speaker Kurt Daudt says he was expecting the governor to talk about wanting to increase taxes this session. “I think it was good that he didn’t say that, Daudt says, “because it would be dead on arrival.”
Governor Dayton also urged lawmakers to approve his 1.5-billion-dollar bonding request for public works projects. A third of it would go to the U-of-M and state colleges and universities to repair and renovate aging buildings, and Dayton told lawmakers, “I know they asked for less than what they need because they thought that that was all the legislature would support. Well, surprise them.” At the same time, Dayton’s request for 167 million dollars in bonding money for water infrastructure projects across the state drew loud applause from the assembled lawmakers. Republicans are talking about a bonding bill half the amount of what Dayton requested, arguing the legislature passed a good-sized bonding bill just last session and the state shouldn’t take on too much additional debt.
Governor Dayton again urged lawmakers to give all Minnesotans, regardless of income, the option to buy health insurance through state-run MinnesotaCare, telling lawmakers, “All of you can side with big insurance companies who don’t want this competition, or you can side with Minnesotans who do.” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka calls Dayton’s plan a “non-starter — and the reason being is, for that to work, they have to lower the reimbursement rate to our local hospitals and providers. If everybody had MinnesotaCare, all of our local hospitals and providers would go out of business.” Gazelka says the solution is finding ways to drive down health care costs.
Dayton also said lawmakers a very clear choice on the gun issue: “They can side with the NRA who strongly opposes common-sense solutions to reduce gun violence in our schools and communities, or they can side with the schoolchildren of Minnesota who are begging us for it.” Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says when it comes to safe and secure schools, “We’re gonna focus on hardening the target. We’re gonna make sure that we focus on mental health, that there’s resources available, but when you talk about guns on either side of that issue, the fact is that’s just not gonna get anywhere.”