BLOOMINGTON – Addressing 500-plus union activists dressed in T-shirts bearing his likeness, Gov. Mark Dayton took direct aim Saturday at accusations that his support for a new law extending collective bargaining rights to child care providers and home care workers amounts to “payback” for unions’ backing.
Dayton called those allegations – a preferred talking point for his Republican challenger, Jeff Johnson – “reckless, irresponsible and wrong.”
Dayton added that his support for the new law is consistent with his longstanding belief in the value of collective bargaining, and he likened it to Johnson’s longstanding support for lower taxes. Noting Johnson’s pledge to roll back tax rates for the wealthiest Minnesotans, Dayton quipped: “I don’t accuse him of offering a payback to the rich Republicans who are helping finance his campaign.”
Dayton’s remarks came on the third and final day of AFSCME Council 5’s annual convention. About 700 members of the state’s largest union of public employees attended as delegates, and they showered cheers, hugs and applause on the labor-endorsed, DFL governor.
The affection appeared to be mutual, as Dayton reflected on receiving his first labor endorsement of the 2010 campaign from Council 5.
“Without you I would not be here today, and I will be eternally grateful to your leadership and your membership for their support,” he said.
Council 5 President Judy Wahlberg, who introduced Dayton to the delegation, said the governor’s race offers a clear choice between continued progress and a return to “attacks on our very right to exist.”
Indeed, Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner with ties to the Tea Party, has said he wants to “go all Scott Walker” on Minnesota, a reference to the Wisconsin governor’s move to strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights.
In addition, Walker and Republicans in the Legislature slashed aid to Wisconsin’s public school districts and state colleges by $2.6 billion – more than any other state – in order to offset tax cuts enjoyed disproportionately by the state’s highest earners.
How is the Walker economy working for Wisconsin’s middle class families? Not well, Dayton said.
Wisconsin ranks last in job growth among Midwest states since Walker took office four years ago, and a comparison of economic indicators in the two states during that time overwhelmingly favors Minnesota. The gopher state’s economy, Dayton said, has grown 42 percent more than Wisconsin’s, as measured by gross domestic product per capita, and incomes grew 11 percent faster in Minnesota than Wisconsin.
“Does anyone want to trade Minnesota for Wisconsin?” Dayton asked, crediting the state’s entrepreneurs, business leaders and skilled workforce for creating economic growth.
While Wisconsin lawmakers have cut support for schools, Dayton and DFL majorities in Minnesota have moved to restore funds borrowed from public school districts in order to balance the state budget, while expanding all-day kindergarten statewide and replacing “Republican deficits with DFL surpluses,” Dayton said.
“I need you to remember what it was like to work with a Republican governor or a Republican Legislature … and I need you to vow to never let that happen again. I won’t give you a payback; I’ll work together with you, and together we’ll build a better Minnesota.”