ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton says Minnesota lawmakers need to do more to help more Minnesotans.
That was the message in his State of the State address Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
“Minnesota works because we work hard to make it work,” Dayton said in the address.
The governor delivered the traditional address at the McNamara Center at the University of Minnesota because the State Capitol is undergoing major renovation.
No bold new proposals tonight. In fact, Gov. Dayton called for spending caution, but he urged lawmakers to pass initiatives this year that help the highest numbers of Minnesota.
Most of the legislature showed up for the make-shift State of the State address on the University of Minnesota campus. Gov. Dayton highlighted a Minnesota he said is much better off now than when he took office in 2011.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our state is better off today than it was back then,” he said.
Dayton urged lawmakers — especially Republicans — not to slow down or stop what he called “a better Minnesota.” He also bluntly warned GOP lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits to laid off Iron Rangers, without asking for a big business tax cut in return.
“To hold $29 million dollars in desperately needed unemployment benefits hostage to $272 million in tax cuts is unnecessary, and it’s cruel,” Dayton said.
Dayton also made an emotional appeal to reject religious and racial intolerance. He singled out a Muslim woman who wiped away tears as he described how she was attacked for speaking a different language.
I urge all of us as leaders of this state to stand up and speak out together in denouncing any acts of religious or racial intolerance,” Dayton said. “Minnesota must be much better than this.”
Republicans offered a State of the State response without the animosity that characterized the opening of the 2016 session.
“I dont think the governor answered this question: I would say the state of the state is optimistic,” Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt said.
Governor Dayton said tonight his number one priority is protecting the fiscal integrity of the state budget as the economy slows down. That could come into serious conflict with lawmakers.