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Gov. Mark Dayton State Fair appearance marked by salty comments

This post has been updated with response from North Dakota. 

Gov. Mark Dayton has a reputation for speaking his mind, at times to his own political detriment. He spoke freely again at a State Fair visit Thursday. 

Dayton was especially pointed during an MPR interview before a live audience on the subject of ongoing litigation with North Dakota, which sued Minnesota over the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act. The law created a broad ban against Minnesota utilities signing deals to import coal-generated electricity. North Dakota sued and won on the grounds that the law constitutes a trade barrier between the two states that is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution. The case has been appealed. 

Dayton said North Dakota's policies on climate change are "Neanderthal," referring to homo neanderthalensis, our closest extinct human relative, known for a shorter, stockier build and large noses. 

He said North Dakota has "its head in the sand," and that Minnesota would continue to litigate to protect air quality. 

Dave Glatt, head of the environmental health section for the North Dakota Dept. of Health, said his state is one of just a handful meeting all ambient air quality standards established by the EPA. He said roughly 25 percent of North Dakota's total electric generation comes from wind and hydroelectric power, both non-carbon sources. Total carbon emissions are down 11 percent below 2005 levels despite the Bakken oil boom, Glatt said. He acknowledged the carbon intensity of the Bakken oil boom but said Minnesota has benefited from the boom. Oil prices have plunged in part due to a rapid rise in supply in places like North Dakota. 

Glatt said he was on a conference call Thursday with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency talking about climate change and where the two states can work together.

On the subject of feuds, Dayton said his relationship with Senate Majority Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has been fixed. He did allow, however, that politics "is a sandbox where you don't get to choose your playmates." He made repeated jabs at the Legislature during the 45 minute interview. 

Asked about the Black Lives Matter protest of the Fair, Dayton said he believes they may have a legitimate issue about whether the Fair supports enough people of color as vendors, but he said protest organizers should have raised the issue months ago instead of just recently. He questioned any decision to create a traffic jam with a protest. "I just think the way they're proposing to deal with it is irresponsible," he said. 

Dayton was asked about Donald Trump, whom he called a "huckster." "I'm glad he's in the other party," he said of the Republican frontrunner and former reality show star. "They're welcome to him."

Dayton likes to use self-deprecating humor and Thursday was no different. 

"What a great turnout. Almost as many people here as at the french fry booth," he said. 

Gov. Mark Dayton visits Minnesota State Fair

Gov. Mark Dayton visited the Minnesota State Fair on its opening day, where he hailed the water ride Ye Old Mill for its 100th anniversary and proclaimed it Ye Old Mill Day in Minnesota.

Dayton joked that when he was a kid the ride was a place for teenages to avoid prying adult eyes.

During an MPR interview in front a live audience, Dayton reiterated his support for middle class tax cuts, a big boost in transportation funding and universal prekindergarten during next year's legislative session, all priorities he was unable to achieve in the 2015 session. 

Dayton said he disagreed with a federal judge's ruling that the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is unconstitutional and would fight it while being open to some modifications.

He said he had lunch recently with a worker from the State Security Hospital in St. Peter who was injured in a recent attack from a patient, highlighting the need for safety upgrades there.  

Dayton said he has patched up his relationship with fellow DFL veteran Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook, with whom he feuded bitterly and publicly during the session. 

Dayton said his Fair favorites are french fries and chocolate malts. He recalled a particular Fair memory from childhood, when his younger sister was lost and feared trampled by a large hog. 


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