(Note: The following is the prepared text of Gov. Mark Dayton’s State of the State address, which he delivered Wednesday evening.)
Mr. Speaker and members of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Madam President and members of the Minnesota Senate, Madam Chief Justice and distinguished members of the Minnesota Supreme Court, my fellow Constitutional officers, members of my staff and Cabinet, Vice President Mondale, Gov. Anderson, other distinguished guests, family and friends, my fellow Minnesotans:
My father, Bruce Dayton, is 93 years old. Sundays, we have lunch together at his home in Long Lake, where I grew up. Sixty-two years ago, my father bought 40 acres of mostly woods and a cornfield for $6000.
He and my mother built a house there, and we moved into it when I was five years old. Over the years, my father acquired 130 more acres.
He was the first person in Minnesota to restore his fields to their original prairie grass and flowers; and he has now donated his property to the people of Minnesota, which the DNR will preserve as one of the few remaining “old-growth” forests in our state.
Last October, as we surveyed the beautiful fall colors on trees bordering his field of prairie grass, I said to him,“You know, dad, you have been a very good steward of this land. It is in so much better condition than when you bought it.”
I often wonder how our children and grandchildren will judge our stewardship. Will they thank us for leaving our state, nation, and world in better condition than when we inherited it? Or will they ask, “How could you have left us with such a mess?”
The answer is for us to decide. I am hopeful, because I believe in Minnesota. I believe in Minnesotans. And, fortunately, our state is now showing signs of a long-awaited and much-needed economic recovery.
Even better, Minnesota has regained its accustomed position leading most other states’ economic growth, after lagging behind for much of the pastdecade.
Minnesota’s latest unemployment rate in December 2011 was 5.7 percent, which was a record 2.8 percent below the national average.
While the national economy has regained less than half of the employment lost from the depth of the Great Recession, Minnesota has regained all of its lost employment. The number of employed Minnesotans today is at an all-time high.
And Minnesota’s percentage increase in total wages during 2011 was almost five times greater than the rest of the country. The 2012 State Business Tax Climate Index ranked Minnesota only 45th amongthe states.
The top five were: Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, and Florida. All, except for Alaska, are “Right-to-Work” states. Last month, however, Minnesota’s unemployment rate was lower than 4 of those 5 states.
During the past two years, our growth in average hourly earnings equaled the best and beat the rest. Our per-capita income was 2nd highest. We’re doing something right.
Yet, even though 97,000 more Minnesotans are working today than at the depth of the Great Recession, there are still more than 168,000 Minnesotans, who want to work, but cannot find employment. They must be our #1 priority.
So, I say to legislators, let’s take your best ideas and my best ideas and turn them into jobs! And let’s do it now. I have already sent you three major jobs initiatives.
My proposed bonding bill would repair buildings and upgrade classroom equipment at our state colleges and universities. It would improve our state parks. It would help finance downtown revitalization projects in several cities.
Five outstanding Mayors are with us tonight: in alphabetical order, Mayor Eric Anderson of Mankato; Mayor Ardell Brede from Rochester; St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman; Mayor Dave Kleis of St. Cloud; and Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak.
My father and my uncles taught me the importance of continuously improving the downtowns of our major cities. They are the economic hearts of entire regions. If the heart weakens, the rest of the body suffers.
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