Gov. Mark Dayton told a packed ballroom of business leaders Wednesday that even in the face of uncertainty over how the U.S. economy might perform under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, Minnesota should dedicate additional resources to health and human services and other major needs.
"While Congress is pondering, the Minnesota Legislature must be active," Dayton said during the annual Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner, held in downtown St. Paul.
"It's rumored that some of the most consequential changes, such as to the Affordable Care Act, might be pondered for as long as three years. What do we do during that time? I believe we are best advised to make our state-level decisions based upon federal statutes as they exist at the time, and then make changes as required by subsequent federal actions. In other words, base our decisions on today's realities rather than tomorrow's possibilities."
A panel of legislative leaders previewed the just-opened legislative session. The chamber, which represents business interests statewide, is one of the most influential interest groups at the Capitol. It spent more than $2.1 million in lobbying in 2015, according to the most recent campaign-finance records.
Among the chamber's 2017 legislative priorities are tax cuts for businesses, removing the automatic inflation adjustments to the state's minimum-wage law and improvements to the state's transportation infrastructure.
In his 10-minute speech, Dayton urged employers to do their part in easing the state's racial disparities in jobs. He said he would like to see additional spending on health and human services, citing greater needs for senior citizens, people with disabilities and working families.
"There are more people in Minnesota that have greater need for assistance than I have seen ever before," Dayton said, adding: "If people's needs are greater, and if we don't respond, how will that make for a better Minnesota?"