Mark Dayton for governor

The DFLer would restore Minnesota’s civic commitments.

by Daily Editorial Board

MinnesotaâÄôs campaign for governor has been about job creation and solving the $6 billion budget deficit. But long-term social problems, like economic inequality and deterioration of basic state services, threaten the stateâÄôs competitive economy. DFLer Mark DaytonâÄôs policies best confront these long-term problems while addressing the short-term budget deficit. He has our endorsement for governor.

DaytonâÄôs argument that the richest should pay their “fair share” of taxes is correct. For two decades, MinnesotaâÄôs tax structure has become more regressive, meaning the poorest have to pay a higher percentage of income in taxes than the wealthier. A 2009 Minnesota Department of Revenue study shows the top one percent of households are projected to have an effective tax rate of 8.8 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, the effective tax rate for the poorest households could be 22 percent in 2011. For the past two decades, middle income earners have paid an effective tax rate of about 12 percent.

The study looked at all state and local taxes. The rich have been paying less over years, while the poor are giving a higher percentage of their income for fewer state services. DaytonâÄôs plan would implement basic parity in our stateâÄôs taxes, fixing a long-term structural problem and finding billions of dollars in revenue for the stateâÄôs budget deficit in the short term.

Republican Tom Emmer argues DaytonâÄôs tax plan would drive businesses âÄî thus jobs âÄî from Minnesota. But evidence for that claim is underwhelming. Despite the stateâÄôs high corporate tax rate, MinnesotaâÄôs diverse economy is home to some of the most successful companies in the world.

Emmer seeks to solve the $6 billion budget deficit by cutting state services, which translates into higher local property taxes, a less robust system of justice and a weaker safety net for the poor. Government, he claims, is living beyond its means; but by law, Minnesota must balance its budget. Minnesota attracts business for the very reason it has, statistically, one of the most educated workforces in the nation. EmmerâÄôs cuts would devastate an already-strapped system of public education.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner âÄî whose thoughtful ideas on the campaign trail we appreciated âÄî positions himself as a candidate able to work with both parties. Yet Horner alienates Republicans and DFLers with proposals to increase the sales tax and cut the corporate tax rate. ItâÄôs no surprise that the lifelong RepublicanâÄôs “redesign” of government would come at the expense of low and middle-income earners. Even if he was elected, Horner has no party behind him in the statehouse, putting into doubt his ability to obtain legislative support.

For Dayton, education is central to rebooting the economy. As heâÄôs reasoned, a genuine, long-term economic recovery cannot come to fruition without investments in public K-12 schools and universities. We are disappointed Dayton didnâÄôt promise to hold down short-term tuition costs. But none of the three candidates made that pledge. Dayton does recognize that cuts can be made to the upper levels of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs administration.

In our DFL primary endorsement, we said Dayton wasnâÄôt the right candidate because of his lack of experience in state politics. But heâÄôs running with state Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon, whoâÄôs been dealing with one of the most complex and important issues of the day: energy politics. Her eight years of leadership would help Dayton make MinnesotaâÄôs economy greener and would help him negotiate with lawmakers.

More to the point, DaytonâÄôs plan for Minnesota reflects the stateâÄôs priorities and excellent reputation throughout its history. Minnesota has been a state fair in its taxes but diverse and strong in its business economy. ItâÄôs a state thatâÄôs offered the best public education and health care in the nation. ItâÄôs a state that doesnâÄôt discriminate based on lifestyle, identity or economic status. That those hallmarks of Minnesota have been fading is all the more reason voters should elect Dayton, a lifelong public servant, as their governor.