ST. PAUL — Mankato may not really need to lobby Gov. Mark Dayton.
Before he took the hotel floor Thursday, the governor already supported Highway 14 upgrades and the $14.5 million civic center borrowing request. And after he left, Dayton was wearing a purple-and-gold scarf and cheering on the Mavericks.
“He really has a warm spot in his heart for Mankato,” Minnesota State University President Richard Davenport said.
Dayton spent most of his brief talk to Mankato-area leaders pitching his budget proposal for higher spending in higher education and property-tax relief.
He also had some kind words for local government officials.
“A really destructive attitude that’s been prevalent in St. Paul is that it’s your fault,” he said, referring to property-tax increases. “The attitude in the Capitol is that’s your fault, that’s your responsibility. But obviously your two sources of revenue are state aid and property taxes.”
Cities, counties and schools have been cutting their budgets, he said, but “there’s no slack and no room for absorbing the kind of reductions you’ve had to endure in the last decade.”
Dayton also had some advice for supporters of the civic center project: Lobby some legislators, especially those in this region.
“Whatever you can do to build 60 percent of the votes in the House and the Senate, that’s the bottom line,” he said.
The second day of Greater Mankato at the Capitol was much easier for attendees than the first, when 120 south-central Minnesotans fanned out in hopes of finding lawmakers. On Thursday, Dayton, three of his commissioners and a bank analyst came to the downtown St. Paul hotel where the citizen-lobbyists were stationed.
It was the first time in the event’s four years that participants stayed in St. Paul overnight.
The commissioners started with their own defense of their boss’ proposal, and then took questions from the crowd.