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Dayton Seeks No-Shutdown In State Of State

Governor Mark Dayton
United States Senate Photo

ST. PAUL  (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is pushing state lawmakers to pledge that they won’t let a budget fight reach the point of a government shutdown.

Dayton’s call during his first State of the State address shows how he’s looking ahead to the budget end-game before the true debate even starts. Dayton lays out his two-year budget proposal next week.

The Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature disagree over the need for tax increases to help plug a $6.2 billion shortfall.

Dayton says he’ll seek a new top-bracket income tax, but he didn’t give details.

If state leaders can’t reach a deal before July 1, parts of government would be temporarily shuttered. Dayton calls that “absolutely unthinkable,” according to his prepared text.

Minnesota endured a partial shutdown in 2005 amid a budget stalemate.

On criticism of Governor Pawlenty:

Gov. Dayton delivered a harsh assessment of Minnesota’s economy under his predecessor, Republican Tim Pawlenty.

Dayton says he inherited a “horrendous fiscal mess” and poorly managed state agencies.

Dayton is the state’s first Democratic governor in 20 years.

Dayton also notes that the state had 77,000 more unemployed residents just before he took office last month than it did before Pawlenty came in eight years ago. The new governor says fewer people working were even though Minnesota’s population grew.

Dayton says the stagnation followed income tax cuts enacted when the Independence Party’s Jesse Ventura was governor and Pawlenty was in the Legislature.

On Education funding:
Dayton says he wants all-day kindergarten to be an option for every child in Minnesota.

Dayton is calling on lawmakers to find the money to give all families access to full-day kindergarten if they want it.

The Democratic governor says he will include the money in the budget proposal he will present next week.

Dayton has also pledged to increase spending on K-12 schools every year he is in office, even though the state is running $6.2 billion short over the next two years.

Dayton says he will revive the Governor’s Council on Early Childhood Education and the Children’s Cabinet. Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius will lead both.

On streamlining government:
Dayton is picking up on a government streamlining initiative that Republican predecessor Tim Pawlenty touted.

He wants to expand on a behind-the-scenes efficiency effort to help state and local governments improve service and cut costs.

Dayton says he will ask Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon and Chief of Staff Tina Smith to work with three agency heads to identify immediate savings on items such as purchases of computers and printers.

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