Gov. Mark Dayton looks ahead to issues facing the next governor
Transportation will be a key issue in the fall gubernatorial election and for the next governor, according to Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton, who was in Coon Rapids on June 4 to serve breakfast to local school children and talk with the ECM Editorial Board, said it is imperative that the state invest more in transportation.
“The trouble is, nobody wants to pay for it,” he said.
Dayton said a proposal has been formulated to dedicate $6 billion to transportation for maintaining and improving systems throughout the state.
A solid transportation system is “essential to maintain the economic vitality” of the state, Dayton said.
Asked how he would plan to pay for an ambitious transportation program, Dayton mentioned a sales tax and a reallocation of funds from the general fund to help with issuance of construction bonds. He predicted “something significant” will be passed the next session.
Dayton said lessons were learned following the controversy surrounding the Southwest Light Rail Transit Line from Minneapolis to the west metro.
Those lessons might help the process with the proposed Bottineau Transitway (METRO Blue Line extension), extending approximately 13 miles from downtown Minneapolis to the northwest serving Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park.
He said he has been critical of the Metropolitan Council staff and board for the processes used in trying to settle the future of Southwest Line. “They had to foresee the choke point” as early as 2004, Dayton said.
Other issues that might be pressing the next governor, Dayton mentioned, not necessarily in order, were education, legalization of marijuana and job creation.
In education circles, Dayton said he was very pleased to sign the new law to authorize $569,000 for an initiative ensuring all 64,000 Minnesota kindergartners have access to a healthy breakfast, free of charge. He said he will look into expanding the free breakfast program for all elementary and even for middle school students.
“We will try to give kids good nutrition and teach better eating habits for kids,” Dayton said.
Dayton also said he favors a more rigorous school year. He said no more waivers will be authorized for four-day school weeks.
“We need more hours in school,” Dayton said.
Dayton said it is very likely that supporters of the legalization of marijuana will again be at the Capitol next year. He said much of the criticism he received for supporting adopted medical marijuana legislation came from Washington, D.C.-based organizations whose mission is to legalize marijuana.
“They want the ability to grow and smoke the leaves,” Dayton said. The governor said the matter could be resolved by a constitutional amendment or by legislation. He said he would oppose it.
“It’s a sticky wicket,” Dayton said.
In talking about the economy, Dayton said 145,000 more people are working today than when he took office four years ago. He is concerned, however, that 60,000 jobs are unfilled because the qualified applicants are not there. He listed engineers, mechanical draftsmen and toolmakers as examples of potential job openings.
Dayton said he hopes to work with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota about a need to align the curriculum and training with the jobs of the future.
Under-funding education programs causes a shortage of workers, Dayton said. He said Minnesota ranks 49th in the U.S. for guidance counseling, an area that could lead to more available workers, he said.
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected]