ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Minnesota’s new governor Mark Dayton hasn’t yet completely moved into his new office, or the official governor’s residence. But he says he’s ready to go.
From the moment Dayton was sworn in on Monday, he was plunged into protest and controversy.
His first official press conference was crashed by demonstrators protesting the federal health care bill. He re-affirmed to anti-tax hike business leaders his plans to raise income taxes on Minnesota’s wealthiest citizens. And his dog died.
In his first one-on-one television interviews since taking office, Dayton said he allowed raucous protesters to speak at his press conference “because of the First Amendment,” recalling his own protest days as a young man.
“I remember going down to protest the Vietnam War in Washington, and I remember being tear-gassed,” said the former U.S. Senator. “I thought then, ‘that’s not supposed to happen in a democracy.'”
Dayton is adamant about raising taxes on Minnesota’s highest income earners to ease a massive budget deficit. He scoffs at Republicans who say it’s easy to cut without severe damage to schools, hospitals, public safety and the poor.
“If they, and we, can collectively find $6.2 billion of spending cuts — hey! I’ll buy the champagne,” said Dayton, a recovering alcoholic. “I won’t drink any, but I’ll let everybody rejoice and we’ll all go home happy. I have no desire to raise taxes on anybody. ”
For all the controversy about raising taxes on the wealthy, Dayton says his famous Dayton Department Store family agrees with him. Including his 92-year old father Bruce Dayton, who watched his son sworn in as governor from the front row of the Landmark Center ceremony.
For the first time, Dayton spoke publicly about the death Wednesday of his beloved German Shepherd Dakota.
He expressed gratitude for what he said was an outpouring of support and sympathy and said he’s planning for a puppy to accompany his other dog, Mesabi.
“Sometime this spring, or summer, when things settle down a bit, and a chance to survey the backyard of the governor’s residence, I am going to get another German Shepherd puppy,” he said. “A female. We’re gonna name her Wanamingo and call her Mingo.”
Dayton appeared at ease, comfortable in his new role, and he acknowledges the hard part is only beginning.
WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler Reports