Gov. Mark Dayton laid out his priorities for Minnesota's 2016 legislative session during his State of the State speech Wednesday evening, telling lawmakers there are "many challenges and opportunities that, if we face them and seize this moment, will propel our state farther ahead.”
The Legislature held a rare session away from St. Paul. With the State Capitol in the midst of a renovation, Dayton addressed the House and Senate at the University of Minnesota's McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis.
Act in next 10 weeks with an eye on next 10 years
Dayton says his overarching goal for the legislative session is "protecting Minnesota's fiscal integrity."
The latest projection puts the state's budget surplus at $900 million, which is $300 million less than the estimate of last November.
Last month's downsizing of the surplus led leaders of both political parties to call for caution in their decisions about future spending and taxing. Dayton reiterated that Wednesday, saying "we must make our decisions over the next 10 weeks with a close eye on the next 10 years."
Even so, the DFL governor says he'll propose "modest spending increases and middle-income tax cuts" when he releases his supplemental budget next week. Without getting into many specifics, Dayton described some of his priorities, which include:
- Tax breaks for parents with kids in child care
- Early childhood education – in particular, expanding access to pre-school for all of the state's 4 year olds
- Water quality – Dayton has already outlined a $220 million plan that includes upgrades to treatment plants
- Transportation – Road and bridge repairs were also a priority last year, but there was no agreement on how to pay for it.
Dayton says he also wants Minnesota to fight racial disparities and backed a plan to double the percentage of state employees from racial minority groups, the Associated Press notes.
He also said he'll push for a sizable package of state construction projects, extending broadband Internet service to rural areas, and an extension of unemployment benefits for laid off taconite workers.
After Dayton's speech, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said he's optimistic about the legislative session that started Tuesday.
Session Daily says Daubt commented: "While we may not agree on the path on the way to get there, we did find that there are some shared goals in his agenda and our agenda. … There are things that we can work on together.”
Senate Republicans issued a response to the governor's speech, which was delivered by Sen. Paul Gazelka of Nisswa.