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5 things from Gov. Mark Dayton's final State of the State speech

The Minnesota governor gave his final SOTS address on Wednesday.
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Mark Dayton has delivered his final State of the State speech as Minnesota's governor.

The two-term governor will hand over the reins to the winner of this November's gubernatorial election, and gave thanks to those who supported him during Wednesday's speech.

There was no repeat of last year's speech, when Dayton collapsed part of the way through and was unable to return – and he quipped just a few moments into his speech that he should finish now "to make certain I can walk out by myself."

Here are some of the key points from Dayton's speech.

A subtle nod to Tim Pawlenty

It's to be expected that his final State of the State speech would touch upon the situation in Minnesota when he took over in 2011 from former governor Tim Pawlenty.

But with Pawlenty mulling yet another run for governor, Dayton's opening remarks about the fiscal situation he inherited took on more meaning (albeit, perhaps unintentionally.)

"Being Governor was not fun, when I took office in January 2011. State Government was in terrible financial condition, with a $6.2 billion deficit forecasted for the next two fiscal years. The state had “borrowed” almost $2 billion from our public schools, and had used millions of dollars more in shifts and gimmicks to mask the full extent of the deficit."

Tax cuts aren't the antidote

Again a nod to the upcoming gubernatorial and mid-term elections – Dayton hailed his decision to implement a 2 percent tax hike on the top 2 percent of earners as playing a major role in Minnesota's economic recovery from the financial crisis, and bringing stability and prosperity to the state.

"What must we do to continue that success?" he said. "Tax cuts are some people’s answers. Tax cuts are always some people’s answers. 

He also noted that in the mid-90s Minnesota was ranked as the 3rd highest taxed state in the country under Republican governor Arne Carlson. During his tenure, Minnesota has been the sixth highest.

Calls for continued education funding

Boosting early childhood education funding has been one of Dayton's big aims in recent years, and something he hopes continues under the next leader of the state.

"When I started, the state’s funding for elementary and secondary education per $1,000 of personal income, was in the bottom half of the fifty states. Most recently, we ranked 18th, according to the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence. That’s better, but it’s not good enough."

He says Minnesota's workers are some of the highest skilled in the country, but warns that cutting funding to education could change that.

Pledge to sign gun control bills

Given what has passed in recent weeks, an in fact on Wednesday itself as hundreds of students across the state walked out of class calling for gun control legislation, it's not surprising that Dayton focused on the gun control debate.

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– Proposing gun control bills, GOPers say they don't care if they're voted out

He praised the bipartisan quarter of senators who "courageously" introduced gun bills earlier this week, and said he'd sign them the minute they land on his desk – should they pass.

He laid out the options facing Minnesota's legislators.

"Minnesota lawmakers face another clear choice this session. They can side with the NRA, who strongly opposes commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence in our schools and communities, or they can side with the schoolchildren of Minnesota who are begging us for it."

'Diversity is crucial to success'

He touched upon the changing demographics, noting that 19 percent of Minnesota's population are now men, women and children or color.

He says, however, that there remains resistance to this change in the fabric of the state, and says there are folks who need to be educated "to move beyond racism, religious bigotry, and other hatreds" so they see how diversity is "crucial to our state's future success."

"There are simply not enough native Minnesotans to drive our future economic growth. There are already too few unemployed workers to fill our state’s current job vacancies. And that labor shortage is expected to become even more acute. The additional workers we need to expand our economy must come from the newcomers to our state."

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