MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gov. Mark Dayton delivered his last State of the State address Wednesday night as the state’s current leader, urging unity among Minnesotans.
He also said over the last four years he’s been in office, Minnesota’s economy is now on the mend. Dayton joined the WCCO This Morning show Thursday to recap the speech and address his health, which has been in the spotlight the last several months with surgeries and trips to the Mayo Clinic.
His State of the State address was first delayed because he was in a body cast following surgery, and Wednesday night coincided with a big NHL playoff game that the Minnesota Wild won. Dayton joked he wouldn’t trade for the body cast again but he said the Wild can overshadow him any night they want.
In terms of the legislative session, legalizing marijuana for medical purposes has been a hotly-debated topic, and Dayton was asked if he would sign a bill for it if it was passed.
“I haven’t read the Senate bill in detail but it allows for smoking marijuana and to me that’s not the major issue facing the state of Minnesota,” Dayton said. “The major issue is the fact that we need to continue the economic growth we’ve been on, we’ve got 150,000 more people working in Minnesota than we did when I took office. We have a lot more work to do but we’re on our way.”
Dayton also addressed many of the controversial issues that might have hurt his approval rating with some voters. That includes last year’s Vikings stadium bill, same-sex marriage and the bullying bill as well as the state’s online healthcare exchange.
He said MNsure started badly but has improved and will continue to improve. Dayton said nothing has been perfect in four years, but he’s proud of what they’ve done in the Legislature.
In response, Gov. Datyon’s State of the State address was widely criticized by Republicans.
“To hear the Governor talk about this it seems that all prosperity and all good things come from Democrat majorities and the Government, and of course we know that is not true,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader David Hahn.
Hahn said Dayton attempted to take full credit for the improvements made when it was a bi-partisan effort. Others felt the speech was a platform for Dayton’s re-election campaign.
Republicans also argued Dayton glossed over the problems, like the botched health insurance exchange launch, tax increases used to balance the budget a year ago and altered teacher testing requirements that they think will weaken qualifications for those at the head of the classroom.