Gov. Mark Dayton defended his budget proposal and vision for Minnesota in his State of the State on Wednesday night.
“Trying to cut our way to a better Minnesota is a failed experiment,” Dayton said. “If you’re interested in nothing more than throwing rocks and casting blame, send the rest of us a letter, or a postcard.”
Dayton reaffirmed his support for the legalization of same-sex marriage, but stopped short of calling on legislators to pass a bill this year.
“I believe that every Minnesotan should have the freedom to marry legally the person she or he loves, whether of the same or other sex,” Dayton said. “I want Minnesota to be a state which affirms that freedom for one means freedom for everyone, and where no one is told it is illegal to marry the person you love.”
Dayton spent much of his address defending a budget proposal that would usher in the biggest tax overhaul in a generation, but is also proving to be a harsh test for the new DFL leaders in both chambers.
Dayton’s new budget outline would wipe out a $1.1 billion deficit, provide direct property tax rebates for homeowners and boost money for education. To pay for that, Dayton wants to raise income taxes for the wealthy and dramatically expand the sales tax to include clothing and many services, including business-to-business transactions.
“Few people like paying taxes, even when they’re fair. No one likes paying more taxes, even when necessary to make them fair,” Dayton said. But when taxes are unfair, and remain unfair, not only do the people who are forced to pay more, rightfully resent it; but they also lose faith in their elected officials who won’t change it.”
Republicans renewed their intense criticism of Dayton’s budget and the dramatic increases in taxes they say will hobble the state’s weak-kneed economic recovery.
“There’s no reform, no improvement. We’re just going to spend a lot more money to do essentially what we are already doing,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “He said we have a billion dollar problem and he said to solve that problem, we heed $3.5 billion more in revenue. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
But Dayton countered that GOP state leaders spent a decade trying to cut government as a pathway to financial stability and economic strength. It only resulted in drained reserves and underfunded programs and institutions crucial to the state’s success.
“How much lower will we reduce our spending for postsecondary education, either in real dollars or compared to other states?” Dayton asked. “Experts everywhere say that the quality and affordability of higher education is key to our future economic success. Does anyone believe that continuing to reduce our commitment to higher education is the path to a better Minnesota?”