Gov. Mark Dayton is blasting legislative Republicans for refusing to pay for additional construction projects that could bring new economic development to the state.
“They are just dead wrong,” Dayton said Tuesday. “The Republicans have been wrong on this since I arrived. They are short-changing projects all around the state that are job-creating projects.”
Democratic and Republican legislative leaders cut a deal last year to limit new construction spending to about $850 million this session. They made the agreement before a strong economic turnout left the state with a surplus of more than $1.2 billion.
Dayton says the strengthening economy and strong budget outlook give the state more cushion to increase statewide borrowing to pay for roughly $400 million in additional projects.
Since state borrowing requires a two-thirds vote, the measure gives Republicans a rare moment of leverage as Democrats control both the House and the Senate.
Republicans say that the state should not run up taxpayer debt, and leaders have publicly not budged from the $850 million target. They say that the agreed upon number fits with historical averages and see no reason to break from it now.
The statewide construction measure stands as one of the last major initiatives to get completed in the final weeks of the legislative session.
Dayton said a recent Star Tribune story about an unfinished water project in southwestern Minnesota “is a prime example of where the lack of a public investment has crippled that area for economic growth.”
The governor said he is willing to fully fund the water project if it would persuade some GOP legislators to support a higher borrowing measure.
“I don’t think they have a toenail to stand on to justify this rigid ideology,” Dayton said. Holding to that number “would deny a whole range of projects around the state because of their fiscal ideology.”
Parents of ailing children, doctors and clergy are intensifying their push to persuade legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton to legalize medical marijuana this year.
“Our leaders here in Minnesota have the opportunity to heal the sick and bind up the injured,” said the Rev. Catherine Schuyler, of Duluth. “They have the opportunity to make good medicine available to those who are in pain.”
Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, the group leading their effort, held a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday to announce that 100 doctors and religious leaders from around the state support the measure.
The proposal would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with a host of ailments, including children who suffer from seizure disorders.
Federal regulators do not consider marijuana to have a medical benefit, so doctors are barred from prescribing it.
Dayton is bowing to the strong objections of law enforcement and health officials, who say that the change would make it easier for marijuana to end up in the hands of children and recreational users.
Dayton has tried to seek a compromise, offering to have the state pay for a Mayo Clinic study that would allow at least 200 children with seizures to be part of trials to see if marijuana does have medical benefits.
The study could provide new and potentially ground-breaking medical research in what has become a very political issue in Minnesota and around the country.
Medical marijuana advocates have so far rejected the study proposal, saying there is no guarantee that Mayo Clinic could legally obtain marijuana for the trial.
So advocates resumed their push for legalization, saying public opinion and existing medical research is on their side.
“Studies have shown that medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for people suffering from nausea, appetite loss and pain that are often caused by HIV/AIDS or the medical used to treat it,” said Bill Tiedemann, executive director of the Minnesota AIDS project.
No doctors or medical professionals attended the news conference, but the Minnesota Nurses Association released a statement of support.
“We believe this legislation will result in positive health outcomes for the sickest patients in Minnesota,” the group said.
Gov. Mark Dayton's three most recent appointees to the state of Minnesota's campaign watchdog board are coming up for review by the House Elections Committee.
The panel is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning for an overview of the appointments of Christian Sande, Ed Oliver and Jon Stafsholt to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Oliver's appointment is the most notable, as he served from 1993 to 2002 as a state senator from western Hennepin County.
When Dayton appointed Oliver last summer for a term that expires in 2017, he became the second former GOP legislator that the Democratic governor tapped for the campaign finance board. Former state representative Neil Peterson of Bloomington was the first.
The board's current chairwoman is also a former state lawmaker. Deanna Wiener is a former DFL senator from Eagan.
Dayton's other two appointees up for review by the House panel are Christian Sande, a private attorney who once ran for secretary of state as a Democrat; and Jon Stafsholt, a retired district judge from the state's Eighth Judicial District in west-central Minnesota.
Gov. Mark Dayton and the state’s top tourism official are making a dramatic push to increase tourism with a new campaign to showcase things visitors can do only in Minnesota.
“We are going much more aggressively trying to reach the out-of-state travelers,” Explore Minnesota Tourism director John Edman said.
An additional $11 million in state funding is allowing tourism officials to reach outside the immediate market, spreading for the first time into Missouri, Kansas and western states.
The campaign features new television commercials and showcase local music along and an aggressive social media effort that officials hope will allow them to engage with people thinking about visiting Minnesota.
“This new campaign is a movement that will highlight unique Minnesota attractions and engage consumers in conversation about Minnesota travel,” Edman said. “This cutting-edge campaign allows our state to be more competitive, and grow tourism across Minnesota.”
Tourism officials are trying to get an edge locally as states like Wyoming, Michigan and Wisconsin are spending millions to lure Minnesotans to their states.
Without an aggressive campaign, Edman said, Minnesota would lose out to other states, many of which still have higher tourism budgets.
Edman said the new campaign is designed to help Minnesota hold and grow what is already a $12.5 billion tourism industry, which employs more than 245,000 workers.
“We want to make it a preferred destination,” he said.
Tourism officials are paying for the new campaign from a 65 percent increase in their funding authorized in Dayton's budget.
"We have a great state and so much to offer," Dayton said.
Tourism officials said research shows that travelers want to experience something new when they travel, which is why they created the theme, “Only in Minnesota.” The ads showcase Minnesota’s outdoor adventures, cultural amenities and landmarks.
Tourism officials are encouraging visitors share photos and Minnesota travel experiences on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media by using the official campaign hashtag #OnlyinMN. Some of the images will be featured in future billboards or sent out via social media.
Tourism officials have also revamped their website making it more user-friendly and functional for smart phones. The website features vivid images and a live-chat function where visitors can ask questions about Minnesota destinations.
The website overhaul was part of Dayton’s initiative to have state agencies revamp communication with the public to make it in plainer language and more easy to understand.
“We have seen tremendous growth in visitor site traffic through mobile devices,” Edman said. “We need to meet travelers where they are, and that means being accessible on mobile devices and social media.”
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a dramatic increase in the state’s minimum wage Monday, giving raises to more than 325,000 Minnesotans.
The new $9.50 base hourly wage takes the state from having one of the lowest minimum wages to one of the highest when it fully kicks in by 2016.
“Minnesotans who work full-time should be able to earn enough money to lift their families out of poverty, and through hard work and additional training, achieve the middle-class American Dream,” said Dayton, surrounded by legislators, labor and labor leaders at a ceremonial bill signing in the State Capitol rotunda. “Raising the minimum wage to $9.50, and indexing it to inflation, will improve the lives of over 325,000 hard-working Minnesotans. I thank the Legislature for recognizing the need to make work pay in Minnesota.”
Minnesota’s dramatic wage increase puts the state at the forefront of a major initiative of President Obama, who has failed to persuade Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and instead focused on pressing his case state by state.
The state’s higher minimum wage has angered Republicans and business leaders, who say the higher wage will force them to lay off workers and become a drag on the fragile economic recovery.
“We believe that all Minnesotans deserve the dignity of supporting themselves and their families through hard work,” said state Rep. Ryan Winkler, a Golden Valley DFLer who was a chief negotiator of the minimum wage effort. “Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is an important step to create a rising floor for all wages that will benefit hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who work hard and deserve to get ahead.”
At $6.15 per hour, Minnesota has one of the lowest minimum wages in the nation, lower than neighboring Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Minnesota is one of only four states with a minimum wage below the national rate of $7.25 per hour.
State officials estimate that the $9.50 base wage will put an additional $472 million in the pockets of Minnesota’s lowest-wage workers each year. Supporters say the increase in consumer spending is expected to help local businesses in communities across our state, and provide another boost to Minnesota’s growing economy.
“Today represents a big step forward for low-wage workers in our community,” said Sen. Jeff Hayden, a Minneapolis DFLer who was a chief supporter of the wage-hike measure. “We rely on these workers every day, yet many of them cannot support their own families. Raising the minimum wage is part of a larger effort to lift up the working poor and ensure all Minnesotans have the opportunity to earn enough to get by.”
A Minnesotan who earns $6.15 per hour work full-time earns an annual salary of just $12,792, about $7,000 below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour comes within $30 of closing that gap for the year.
To help small businesses, the bill also establishes lower minimum wage requirements for small employers and young workers once the new law takes effect Aug. 1.
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