Dayton issues State of the State address

Gov. Mark Dayton named transportation and all levels of education as his top priorities.

by Logan Wroge

Gov. Mark Dayton gave his fifth State of the State address Thursday evening, reiterating education and transportation as his top priorities.

“Right now, we have a rare moment of opportunity,” Dayton said during the speech. “The state of our state is good. Not everywhere. Not for everyone. But overall, Minnesota is doing better than it has for some time, and Minnesota is doing better than most other states.”

During the speech, Dayton credited Minnesota’s nearly $1.9 billion surplus this year to the businesses, professionals and citizens of Minnesota and not to increased taxes.

Dayton also discussed college affordability on Thursday, and cited data that shows Minnesota ranks fifth highest in the nation for average college debt. In his address, he said educated students benefit the workforce and businesses of Minnesota.

“The quality of our state is, and will be, determined primarily by the quality of our citizens, which will be influenced strongly by the quality of their educations,” Dayton said Thursday.

On Tuesday, Dayton introduced his bonding bill for higher education institutions, which would appropriate $100 million to the University of Minnesota for facility maintenance, renovations and the construction of new buildings. The governor’s proposal, which he calls his Jobs Bill, goes beyond the University’s initial request of $77 million.

Because this year is not a bonding bill year for the Legislature, leadership in the House and the Senate are divided on whether to pass one.

Majority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the Senate is working on a bonding bill proposal, but because a bonding bill must also originate in the House of Representatives, he said it depends on what the Republican-controlled House chamber will do.

“If the House does decide they want some version of a bonding bill, the Senate will have a bill prepared and ready to respond,” Bakk said.

Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told reporters he is willing to negotiate a bonding bill this session but Dayton is going to have to prove that one is necessary.