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'I am better': Gov. Mark Dayton says in first public appearance since hospitalization

Mark Dayton tells reporters on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, that one of the things that makes him most proud in eight years as Minnesota governor is expanding the state's education system. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appeared in public for the first time since before his mid-October hospitalization with a couple of reasons to smile.

The Democratic governor, soon to end four decades of public service, celebrated the prediction of a $1.5 billion state budget surplus and his improving health during a Thursday, Dec. 6, news conference, his first planned public appearance since two back surgeries at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

“I am better,” the 71-year-old said. “I still have a ways to go to recover from complications.”

The governor said he was happy to no longer be confined by an oxygen tank.

Dayton has had back, hip and leg issues the the past few years. It has slowed him down at times. On Thursday, he said that he was sorry he could not travel around the state as he had planned before his eight years in the governor’s office ends when Tim Walz takes his place Jan. 7.

“It is not the way I wish I would go out as governor,” he said.

Dayton said he will rent a Minneapolis apartment on a month-to-month basis “until I decide what to do with the rest of my life.” He said he would love to be a hall monitor in an elementary school so he could high-five students all day.

Dayton called the news conference, where he sat instead of standing behind a podium as he usually does, to talk about the budget surplus.

He said the surplus is “a remarkable recovery from the shambles” he found with the state budget when he took office from Republican Tim Pawlenty. The end of the Pawlenty administration also was when a recession affected the national economy.

“The state is in exceptional fiscal shape,” Dayton proclaimed as he prepares to exit.

His replacement agreed.

“Today’s budget forecast is a testament to the incredible work of Gov. Mark Dayton,” Walz said. “I am humbled to follow in his footsteps, and I pledge to continue his legacy of fiscal stability.”

In a month, Walz will become the first Democrat to ever to replace another Minnesota Democratic governor.

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.