The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 31, 2013

Amid turbulent session, Gov. Mark Dayton looks to re-election

ST. PAUL — Two years as Minnesota's governor hasn't made Mark Dayton any more predictable after a long career marked by unexpected decisions and unorthodox moves.

That tendency was on display in early March when Dayton abruptly abandoned an ambitious sales tax overhaul after nearly two months of trying to sell it to the public and lawmakers. Even the governor's press handlers were caught unaware by the suddenness of his announcement, and some fellow Democrats criticized the decision.

Dayton's change of heart was soon followed by new worries about his administration's serious overestimation of gambling tax revenue for a Vikings stadium project that he counts as a top accomplishment. It's made for a rocky stretch in a legislative session that's pivotal to Dayton's hopes for a second term.

In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Dayton promised no surprises when it comes to his intention to seek re-election next year. The re-election bid would be a first in his long political career. In his two previous stints in elected office, as state auditor and U.S. senator, Dayton twice surprised Minnesota political watchers by bowing out after one term.

Not this time, he said.

"If I'm breathing," Dayton said, when asked if he's definitely running again. "Good Lord willing, I'm running for re-election."

Despite the bumps of recent weeks, Dayton is nearly certain this year to accomplish what he called "my signature issue" — an income tax increase on Minnesota's wealthiest residents. Dayton began touting it when he launched his campaign for governor in 2009. He was foiled in the quest by Republican legislative majorities in 2011-12, but now has allies in House and Senate DFL majorities who have eagerly endorsed taxing the rich.

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