Gov. Mark Dayton told a top business group that he intends to take on alarming disparities between Minnesota's white and minority populations in income, health and education.

"I fault myself for not starting this initiative sooner," he said of efforts to diversify the state's workforce. "I guarantee it will be a top priority from now on," he told 1,000 or so business and political elites at the annual dinner of the Business Partnership, an organization of Minnesota corporate titans like Polaris, General Mills and Target.

The trend of income disparities is especially alarming for black Minnesotans, the only racial group to regress economically in recent years, with median household income dropping to $27,000 in 2014, down from $31,500 in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Dayton praised the crowd members for their work on diversifying the Minnesota workforce but asked them to do more.

"It's not only the right thing to do, it's an economic necessity," he said, referring to long-term trends that predict the Minnesota workforce of the future will require well-educated and skilled minority workers to offset slower growth among whites.

Dayton also touted his record as governor, which has seen the state go from deficit to surplus and economic growth faster than most states. "The primary reason for our fiscal reversal is not more taxes," he said. "It's more jobs."

The second-term governor also asked for support on two signature priorities that he did not achieve during this year's legislative session: A multiyear transportation package and universal prekindergarten.

His Republican opponents have called for significant tax breaks and spending on roads without a gas tax increase, as Dayton has proposed.

Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042