DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton came to the Capitol Friday to say he'd finished his tour of Minnesota's 87 counties and was the wiser for it.
He said he heard tales of woe and struggle and the need to re-awaken and re-invest in Minnesota.
"The people who have jobs are worried and those who don't are desperate," Dayton said. He said he heard about health care that was unaffordable, property taxes that were too high and schools with four day weeks. "The property tax is the most unfair tax."
Dayton, who is bypassing next weekend's DFL convention and will run in a primary, returned from the tour as sure as ever that Minnesota needs to raise income taxes on the upper tier of income earners to pay for services.
"The bottom line is we have to raise revenues. That's very clear if you live in any kind of reality in this state you know that," he said. Dozens of AFSCME, the public employees union that's endorsed Dayton, attended the press conference and applauded him often as he spoke.
During his 40-minute news conference, Dayton also said if he were governor he would push for a bonding bill -- to pay for, among other things, a stop light in Thief River Falls and the projects Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed out of this year's bill -- in 2011. Usually, lawmakers focus on the budget in odd numbered years and the bonding bill in even numbered years. Dayton said he'd move up the bonding bill discussion but perhaps would also push another construction bill in 2012.
Dayton said he's committed to that Thief River Falls stoplight even if he has to put shovel to ground and "build it myself."
And what would a Dayton administration cut from government? The former U.S. Senator didn't have a lengthy list but mention possibly cutting out trade missions (which tend to be paid for with attendee fees) and reducing some upper management positions in departments. He suggested that he may re-adopt the "unsession" idea he proposed when he was running for governor in 1998. The unsessions in even numbered years would be designed to remove unnecessary laws and regulations from the books.
The senator has some more travel in front of him. He's planning to go to Duluth next Friday during the DFL convention.
"I've got a lot of friends there...I'm not going to try to speak," he said.
Nor is he going to try to throw the party that usually marks DFL state conventions. Two years ago, the party was named the "DFL Unity Party."
"I can't do that this year, no. The Minnesota campaign finance board, we checked in the past, and they said it's not legal to do in a year when I'm a candidate," he said. "There are people in the party who would prefer that I'd not run for office and hold a party. They'll be disappointed."
Five DFL candidates have pledged to drop out of the race if they do not get the party's endorsement next weekend. Besides Dayton, former Minority Leader Matt Entenza and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner both plan to run in a primary.