Mark Dayton visits Worthington
WORTHINGTON -- Standing inside the former home of his great-grandfather Wednesday morning, DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton led a "listen and learn" session with about 15 Worthington business and community leaders.
Sitting near a piano inside the Historic Dayton House, constructed in 1890 and restored over the course of 2003 and 2004, Dayton answered questions and commented upon such topics as the state and federal economy, education, fair taxation and more. The former U.S. Senator, who served from 2000-2006 and did not seek re-election, is in the midst of 87-county, 87-day jaunt across Minnesota.
Dayton explained his eagerness to help make Minnesota a better place should he be elected governor.
"Before I went to Washington, I said I thought it was a cesspool," Dayton said in early remarks. "After I arrived, I said I didn't realize how bad it is.
"Our state used to lead the nation in job creation. After 19 years of failed leadership, Minnesota is now one of the bottom 10 states in employment growth," he added. "We are eating our own seed corn by disinvesting in the essential ingredients of success in this state. ... If I offer anything after 35 years of public service, it's experience."
That experience, in addition to his term as a U.S. Senator, includes his tenures as Commissioner of Economic Development, Commissioner of Energy and Economic Development and State Auditor.
District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard told Dayton of his concerns about future funding of education given the state's current fiscal woes. Dayton promised he would continue to increase education spending annually should be elected governor.
"The education we provide for all children ... of all these different backgrounds ... will literally make our break this country in the future," said Dayton, who also called his vote against No Child Left Behind "one of the best votes I made" and complained that comparing "this year's fourth-grade class to next year's fourth-grade class" in examining standardized testing scores "is inaccurate, because you're not controlling the variables."
Dayton also said he recognized that public schools now have to unjustly rely on public referendums to maintain staff and services.
"We're cannibalizing public education in Minnesota to our future detriment," he said.
Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark asked Dayton about his view of local government aid, and invited him to view the city's budget. Dayton said he recognized the cuts of "50 percent in eight years" in LGA, and that they "put you in an impossible situation where you have to cut essential services and raise taxes. ... It's unfair to areas that have lower per-capital income.
"This isn't a shift, it's stealing," he said. "Cities and counties are political subdivisions; they're creations of the state. "You can't just say, 'You're on your own, folks.'"
Dayton, as he has throughout the campaign, reiterated his plan to raise taxes on the richest Minnesotans.
"I think it's about fairness," he stated. "I have a couple of cousins who are not happy with me ... but you think a wealthy Minnesotan should be paying two-thirds of what someone making much less?"
Dayton also addressed questions of Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Manager Glenn Thuringer, who said: "There's a lot of talk right now that there's no state economic development, period." He also asked Dayton what he'd heard from others around the state about the effectiveness of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
"I can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of people who say their services have improved," Dayton said of DEED. "I hear ignorance and arrogance."
In talking about job creation, Dayton said he would do everything he could as governor in that area.
"The Pawlenty administration claims he cares about business, but doesn't respond," Dayton said. "I will go anywhere on this planet to get a job (for Minnesota)."