ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton delivered an unrelenting pro-tax sermon to a decidedly tax-wary crowd Thursday night, telling a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner that there is no good way out of the state’s budget mess.

“Anyone who thinks this session is going to be easy and painless, please share your magic potion with the rest of us,” the new Democratic governor told the 1,500 business leaders in a St. Paul convention center ballroom. It was a room full of people who fought to keep him from office in the fall campaign.

Business groups are nervous about Dayton’s keystone proposal for fixing Minnesota’s budget problems: Bumping up income taxes on many people reporting six figure incomes. Some independent businesses file their taxes on personal income forms, meaning they could get hit. Republicans, who control the Legislature, say they won’t pass it.

Minnesota’s projected budget deficit is pegged at $6.2 billion, although Republicans argue that it’s a product of rapidly rising spending obligations that need to be reeled in.

Dayton said past budget repairs have only pushed the problem to local leaders, forcing up property taxes. He said he won’t let that happen on his watch.

While stern in his tax call, Dayton sought to extend a hand, asking for input for cutting costs and delivering government services more efficiently. He stressed that education of the state’s future work force, size of the business customer base and the safety of communities depend on a balanced fix.

Dayton imparted a business lesson he learned from his father, who helped build the department store chain that resulted in Target.

“A company’s business did better when its customers are doing better,” he said. “Minnesota’s businesses do better when the people of Minnesota are doing better.”

The annual, start-of-the-year dinner had a far different feel than the last eight, when Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty was viewed as a steadfast business ally who swatted back any tax hike that came his way.

The room was mostly silent as Dayton spoke, with the only noise being forks clinking on dinner plates. He got polite applause and a slow-to-happen standing ovation at the end.

Chamber president David Olson said both sides know where each other stand — and neither is ready to budge when it comes to taxes.

“I haven’t run into too many business people who say, `Now is the time to raise my taxes.’ They’re cutting health care benefits, they’re cutting jobs, they’re reducing or eliminating their contributions to 401(k)s, they’re trying to survive,” Olson said.

Dayton came under heavy business group fire during the governor’s race. One business-financed campaign group, led by Olson, ran humorous ads with crying children and making bumbling moves on a football field while a narrator said Dayton would “hurt Minnesota’s economy.”

“Feel surprised? A bit frustrated? Scared? That’s how Minnesotans feel when they hear Mark Dayton’s bad ideas,” the ad said. Other ads by independent groups were harder hitting.

Dayton used the opposition efforts as a punch line to break the ice.

“One of the great features of our democracy is you and some of your friends and allies can spend $3.5 million to defeat me in an election and then when it’s over, invite me for dinner,” he joked.

Dayton made lunchtime remarks to a private session of the Minnesota Business Partnership, an exclusive group of chief executives of large companies or top representatives of corporations headquartered outside the state. The leader of the partnership was involved in the anti-Dayton campaign efforts.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (13)
  1. Hopefully all involved can find creative and forward thinking ways to collaborate and create a system that works for everyone.

  2. Ignorance must be bliss says:

    That would be a dream come true. Unfortunately you cannot please all the people all the time so there are still going to be people that complain no matter what he does.

  3. john says:

    NO comment, it speaks for it self!

  4. Doug says:

    While he hides his money in Dakota, He tries to take other peoples money. Have a drink and a few pills you complete loser.

  5. Smithy says:

    Get your head out of the sand you ignorant republicans!
    Geez, you should have went to college like most of us educated democrats!

  6. Scott Funk says:

    You are a massive ass. You cannot leave your ideology aside for a single moment to actually LISTEN to what the man was saying, could you? Use your head!

  7. MarkFreidman says:

    Tom – I think the same as Scott. You folks all sat and begged for it all like everyone else in this country but never had the metal nards to accept fact it has to be paid for at some point. Until you and your breathen figure out some magical means to do so it is via taxes. The Piper has come a calling pal and that’s the facts

  8. jnr says:

    Here is why Dayton makes sense.

    The second unhappy change in the American economy has been the extraordinary growth of our public debt. In 1970 it was just 40 percent of gross domestic product, or about $425 billion. When it reaches $18 trillion, it will be 40 times greater than in 1970. This debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.

  9. Andrew says:

    One of the reasons of the large state budget deficit is that this state is a very benevolent state to peoples from other states and countries. Benevolent with our hard-earned tax money, that is. Why do you think we keep having such a large influx of mexicans, central americans and africans? Because the message out there is, come to this state and we will take care of your every need, no matter what. And all the Minnesotans who are really in need? Well partner, tough luck, and get to the end of the line. This benevolence has to be curtailed or even stopped.

    1. Mike says:

      I agree. I proudly voted for Dayton but the debt is very bad for Minnesota and a combination of tax hikes and cuts in services needs to be provided. I would rather see us help Minnesotans than others. Sure in a perfect world the others could get help but thats not how the system works in other states. They call us “Moneyapolis” in Chicago. Any problems you have you just hop on a bus and come to Minnesota. Medical problems? One night in the state you are now eligable for coverage. If you have several children then you really hit the jackpot! There are many cases of people listing their address with relatives and getting their money and bolting back to Chicago. This happens from all over the upper midwest. It needs to stop.

  10. James says:

    So everyone knows you can’t tax your way out of the deficit. Which democratic programs are going to get cut first? It’s not just taxes that need to be cut, it’s the programs. It’s the mass transit. it’s the sports stadiums. It’s the medicaid and medicare programs that the middle class feel entitled to. it’s the big government regulations that kill private sector investment. At what point do you realize that you can’t tax the state of minnesota to the tune of 7 billion dollars in 2 years to get out of debt. TPaw had it right, you simply don’t spend the money. You simply don’t spend the money. You reject the big interests and go on a budget. Which item will be first on your list of big budget cuts for the dems? How about starting with the department of education and medicare. How about government pensions? Where do you start guys?

  11. Peter Sovell says:

    It is very refreshing to find a politician who exhibits LEADERSHIP SKILLS by LISTENING.

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