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Dayton blames Pawlenty for budget woes

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton took on former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in his State of the State address.

It sounded a bit like last fall's campaign when Democrats running for many offices appeared to be running against Pawlenty, who already was working toward becoming a presidential candidate and not seeking re-election.

The new Democrat governor brought an edge to the speech that has not been seen since he took office on Jan. 3. It appeared he blamed Republican Pawlenty for the state's economic woes, even though most other states also face budget deficits.

"Our employment growth averaged in the bottom 10 among the 50 states during the past decade," Dayton said. "Last December, there were over 77,000 more Minnesotans unemployed than in December 2002, just before Gov. Pawlenty took office. ... And it is worth noting that this decade of poor economic performance followed two consecutive cuts in the state income tax rates by Gov. Ventura and that Minnesota Legislature in 1999 and 2000."

Of course, Pawlenty was House majority leader during Ventura's term and helped cut taxes.

Tax cuts Pawlenty supported hurt education funding, Dayton said. And education funding is one of Dayton's top priorities.

"We were left a horrendous fiscal mess, a decade of economic decline and state agencies poorly managed," Dayton told legislators.

Pawlenty may not closely follow Minnesota politics these days, since he appears on the verge of announcing a White House run, but he was hit with questions about Dayton's speech the next morning on the "Today" show.

His defense was familiar to those in the Capitol. Nearly every other state (he used to say except for North Dakota) is facing budget problems, too. He called it the "worst economic collapse since World War II."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.