Governor Mark Dayton Fielded a Variety of Questions During St. Cloud Stop [AUDIO]
ST. CLOUD - Central Minnesotans had their chance to talk directly to Governor Mark Dayton this (Tuesday) evening in St. Cloud, during the third stop in his "Budget for a Better Minnesota" tour.
A handful of questions had to do with transportation issues, specifically the widening of I-94 between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud. Dayton says the problem is the state just doesn't have the money for all the projects that are out there.
Dayton says, even if an increase in the gas tax was approved by the State Legislature, that would only take us part way there.
Raising the minimum wage:
A couple of the questions that he fielded from the crowd had to do with concerns over the proposal to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota. Dayton says he feels a person working full-time, 40 hours a week, should be able to support a family of four at or above the poverty level.
Dayton called it a "hidden siphoning off of public tax dollars". There are currently of couple of different bills making their way through the state legislature this year that would raise the state's minimum wage.
Raising the tobacco tax:
Part of his budget calls for an increase of the tobacco tax by .94 cents a pack on cigarettes. The American Cancer Society's Joe Erickson of St. Cloud says he supports the idea.
Dayton says he has not supported raising the tobacco tax in the past because it's a regressive tax. But he's says he's been persuaded to change his mind by his Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger.
Dayton says he, "Got an earful" on the subject on Monday night from business owners in Moorhead who say they are already at a disadvantage competing with the neighboring businesses in Fargo, which have a lower cigarette tax.
A handful of people challenged him, and his fellow Democrats, on their support of stricter gun laws.
Dayton says the reality is people do things that are dangerous and illegal.
There are a couple different bills addressing gun legislation moving through the state legislature this year. One of them would require background checks for all gun sales at gun shows, but not personal transactions.
St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce President Teresa Bohen says she's recently talked with four local companies who say they may have to transfer their investments to other states, if the Governor's plan goes through.
However, Dayton says our state's higher tax rates have paid off with investments in education.
Dayton says Minnesota was 12th in the nation in job growth last year, and he says he doesn't see that changing any time soon.
Dayton took questions from the audience at the St. Cloud City Council Chambers for about an hour and a half. During that time, he also gave out his personal home phone number - a practice he's done at public meetings in the past.