Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s State of the State address last night drew glowing praise from the state’s union leaders, who applauded the DFL governor for his honesty, vision and commitment to middle class families.
“In his address, Gov. Dayton rolled out a strong, reasonable path to a better Minnesota, a brighter future for our state,” said Jim Monroe, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, which represents more than 12,000 state workers. “Minnesotans finally have a governor who is willing to take the bold steps needed to achieve tax fairness, invest in education and strengthen the middle class in this state.”
Addressing a joint session of the House and Senate, Dayton reiterated his support for a balanced budget that mixes spending cuts with strategic investments in education, infrastructure and vital services to bridge a projected $1.1 billion shortfall over the next biennium – and pay back the $1.1 billion borrowed from public school districts to balance the current budget.
Dayton also called on legislators to pass a tax reform bill that restores fairness and balance to the system, while protecting the middle class. He pointed to a recent analysis by the think tank Minnesota 2020 showing “middle-class Minnesotans pay 26 percent more state and local taxes per dollar of income than do the top one percent of our state’s income earners.”
“Making taxes fairer requires asking more of those citizens and corporations who now pay less than their proportionate share,” Dayton said. “Today, more and more hard-working, middle-class Minnesotans believe that the state’s tax structure is unfair to them. And they’re right.”
Shar Knutson, president of the 300,000-member Minnesota AFL-CIO, called Dayton’s honest approach to solving the projected budget shortfall refreshing, particularly after “a decade of billions in cuts to education, health care and vital state services, tax giveaways to big corporations and the rich, and budget gimmicks” at the Capitol.
Eliot Seide, executive director of the 43,000-member AFSCME Council 5, said Dayton is “honest about what he wants to buy with his budget, and he’s courageous about how he wants to pay for it.
“No more kicking the deficit down the road,” Seide added. “No more gimmicks and games that pass the buck to future generations.”
The question now is whether legislators will follow the governor’s lead. The answer likely won’t come until after the state releases its next economic forecast Feb. 28.
“Legislators have important choices to make that will impact all Minnesotans,” Knutson said. “Gov. Dayton has provided them a roadmap that leads to a better Minnesota.”