The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 16, 2012

Our View: Dayton strikes positive tone


The Free Press

— Gov. Mark Dayton offered a state of the state message that set a positive tone for the upcoming Legislative session and gave due credit to Republicans and Democrats that have made the state, as Garrison Keillor would say, “above average.”

The message in an election year could’ve been much more partisan with little risk to Dayton. He’s not up for re-election and his poll numbers far outdistance the Republicans in the Legislature. Still he found time to highlight last year’s bipartisan successes.

He and the Republican Legislature came together on alternative teacher licensure, something that posed political risks for a Democratic governor. They came together on fast tracking business permitting. Dayton reported that 99 percent of Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency permit reviews are done in the required 150 days.

Dayton and Republicans also came together on things like teacher and principal evaluations and together increased per pupil funding of schools by $50 per year.

He reiterated how Minnesota has come to be a state that works, noting the state’s economic recovery is far outpacing the national recovery. Again, he gave credit to both Democratic and Republican governors throughout Minnesota history.

Dayton correctly focused on jobs as the major issue in the next legislation session. He asked for the Republican help on his jobs proposals, the bonding bill and a Vikings stadium bill, and even said “please” several times.

Republicans for their part seemed to react positively to Dayton’s outreach to work together.

Dayton touched on a few partisan issues saying he won’t be in favor of bills that are extreme and designed for campaign literature and he touched on, but did not dwell on, last year’s government shutdown. He stated matter of factly that Minnesotans will judge in the next election which approach to the budget they favor, his tax on 2 percent of the richest Minnesotans or spending cuts.

Critics say Dayton didn’t lay out a vision for Minnesota’s future, and that’s valid. There was no real talk of tax reform, the biggest fix needed. But this may not be the time or place for the biggest ideas to be passed. It’s a short session, there are some big issues that need addressing and it is, after all, an election year.

The major theme seemed to revolve around getting things done in a collaborative way, remembering that we’re an above average state in many ways and that we need to continue on that path.