Gov. Mark Dayton was in understandably good form Thursday as he commented on the just-released news that the state budget is on track to produce a $1 billion surplus by mid-2015. All that green is grease to an incumbent’s political skids in the runup to a re-election campaign.
The DFL governor relied on prepared remarks to announce his desire to use about 60 percent of the surplus funds that are not already committed for tax relief – a perennial election-year favorite. Dayton said he will ask an as-yet noncommittal DFL Legislature to repeal three new business services sales taxes (warehousing, telecommunications and equipment repairs); to conform to federal law for joint married filers, thereby reducing the tax burden for many of them; and to enrich the Working Family Tax Credit for low-income earners.
Dayton sounded even more like a candidate when he set his script aside. In response to a question about the economic consequences of the higher income tax rates for top earners that he pushed through the 2013 Legislature, he vigorously defended what he called “the Minnesota model for economic success.”
Minnesota is doing well with “a balanced approach,” Dayton said. “We’re not the lowest tax state. We don’t strive to be. We haven’t been, under Republican governors or Democratic governors. But we are a high-value state. By putting money into education, we have a well-educated workforce.
“Look at high-value manufacturing – we’re increasing there. Look at the kind of investments we are making for [Rochester’s] Destination Medical Center and 3M’s research and development expansion. Other projects like that are going to create more jobs in the future. The balanced approach is one that has proven successful for Minnesota for decades now, and we’re continuing on that path.
“The results -- 122,000 more people working than when I took office, and the fact that we’re the fifth-fastest growing state economy in the country -- just show that fear-mongering and nay-saying about Minnesota are being defied by the facts.”
The rumor that Dayton would opt not to seek a second term has been a nine-lived cat for months. Dayton’s post-forecast performance should bury that cat once and for all.