Gov. Mark Dayton told state educators today that he'll do everything possible to increase education funding each year in office, but he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to deliver on the campaign promise.

Dayton said the past two weeks of putting together his state budget “have been miserable for me.” Just a month into office, the DFL governor acknowledged his education pledge during last fall’s campaign, but seemed to signal it may not be possible. He will submit a budget Feb. 15 and then the Republican-controlled Legislature will have a say.

“This is a starting point, but I’m going to do everything I possibly, humanly can, to make that commitment and fulfill it on my end,” Dayton said. “Of course, it’s up to the Legislature – governors propose, legislature’s dispose. We’ll be having that ongoing conversation. As bad as my budget looks, I’m predicting other budgets are going to look even worse.”

He said if budget forecasts improve over the next month, he would put the additional dollars into education with a small portion going to local government aid.

Dayton did not directly attack Republicans by name at the gathering of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals but his comments were directed at them. He said cuts to education have taken their toll over the past eight years.

“It bothers me enormously when that isn’t recognized and people make these wildly inflammatory and unsubstantiated statements that there’s all this extra money lying around in schools or cities or counties or state agencies that is just sitting out there to be found and saved,” Dayton said.

His message was well received by the principals who gave him a standing ovation.

Although, he  didn’t mention him by name, afterward he took a shot at former Gov. Tim Pawlenty for leaving the state in financial crisis he’s having to clean up.

“It’s a very tough budget. No question, I’ve said that from the beginning,” Dayton said. “Unfortunately I had to inherit and the legislature had to inherit, all of us together, a budget that our predecessors didn’t balance before they departed, so we’ve had to take it on and we will.”

Dayton said he disagrees with a Republican legislative proposal to freeze teacher pay.

“Facts are the average teacher salary in Minnesota is 2 percent below the national average,” Dayton said. “I go back to people are entitled to their own opinions; they’re not entitled to their own facts. If we want to attract the best quality people into the teaching profession and keep the best people in the teaching profession it seems to me keeping their salaries below the national average is not an effective way to do that.”

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