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'10 Questions'

Today: DFL Gov. Mark Dayton

October 20, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

EDITOR'S NOTE: '10 QUESTIONS' is a feature that runs periodically on this page. It will feature prominent officials from a variety of different fields - from area and national politicians, to local civic leaders and public figures. It is independent of the 2012 Election. Today: DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who was in Marshall last weekend for the Governor's Pheasant Opener.

How relieved are you to have the stadium deal wrapped up?

"I'm very relieved. It's now the responsibility of the stadium authority; they have five excellent people in charge of it. If there are some parts of the legislation that aren't quite right as it unfolds, they may come back and ask for an adjustment. Couple things have to fall in place, but it's under way. I've learned through these experiences with the Metrodome and Target Field that the biggest hurdle to get over is to get the agreement on the financing. I can't defend the economics of professional sports in America, but you can decide if you want to keep a professional team here or let it go somewhere else."

Is partisanship getting worse at the state Capitol?

"Definitely. I've been doing this for 36 years and I've never before encountered, as I did last year, the number of people who think that compromise is a weakness and who have a very narrow, very rigid, very extreme ideology. Last year we were apart on the budget, and I said, 'I'll meet you halfway,' and (the Legislature) said no. Democracy can't function that way."

Have you put the shutdown of 2011 behind you?

"Well, I've learned lessons from it. I'm hoping that next year will be different, but that depends on who the people of Minnesota send to the Legislature. If we have another DFL governor with Republican majorities in one or both bodies of the Legislature we will have another gridlock situation that hopefully would end with a different outcome."

Will you continue to push for higher taxes on the state's richest 2 percent next year?

"Yes. That would've raised $1.5 billion for this biennium - that's how much money is in this top 2 percent. Instead, I went along with $750 million of additional borrowing from the schools, $750 million of borrowing from our future tobacco revenues. It was fiscally irresponsible, functionally irresponsible. Then they eliminate the Homestead Credit and cut back LGA so people's property taxes go up."

Have you had more high or lows as governor in the last two years?

"I'm mindful every day of how fortunate I am and I'm grateful. You don't take jobs like this one to have fun, you take them because you think you can make a difference and you want to accomplish something. Being a governor, I can accomplish things that I think are good for Minnesota, and that makes it all worthwhile."

Constitutional amendments - good or bad?

"If you want to pass a bill, the governor has to veto it or sign it and you can override with two-thirds; with a constitutional amendment it just takes a majority of the House, majority of the Senate and it's on the ballot. There's no separation of powers at all; the Legislature has all the power, and if you have two bodies controlled by the same party they can just put whatever they want on. For example with Voter ID, I vetoed legislation the first year and I quoted Governor (Tim) Pawlenty and I agreed with him that any change in election laws should have strong bipartisan support. Rather than work that out, they just said, 'Oh, we'll put that as a constitutional amendment and make it sound like it's a common sense idea. You're really inviting people to do the wrong things for the wrong reason."

Will you run again in 2014?

"Yes, good Lord willing. It's going to take eight years to straighten out the mess I inherited."

Is the state of Minnesota better off now than it was four years ago?

"Obviously four years ago the country was in a fiscal meltdown, and the state was really affected by that. I came into office along with the Legislature in January 2011 and we were looking at a $5 billion deficit, and we resolved two-thirds of that through spending cuts and a third of it through additional borrowing - we did two-thirds of it properly and one-third of it irresponsibly. The thing I feel best about this session, we increased the per pupil aid formula by $50 per student for last year and another $50 for this year - that was the first increase for the school districts from the state in about a decade. In terms of giving the schools the wherewithal to deal with all the challenges they face these days, that was really important."

We live in the land of 10,000-plus lakes and a growing number of public acres on which to hunt. Which do you prefer, fishing or hunting?

"My father's brothers had a cabin on Lake Vermillion up north, and my father took us fishing when I was growing up and he didn't know how to catch fish, but I didn't realize that until I was about 21 or 22; I grew up believing there weren't any fish in Lake Vermillion until I met some people who knew where they were. But I like pheasant hunting because you're walking and moving, as opposed to standing there in a blind freezing. I enjoy pheasant hunting the most."

Voter ID: a problem that needs a solution or a solution to a problem that doesn't exist?

"We have an election system in Minnesota that works near perfectly, and we've proven that by having two recounts in statewide elections and the numbers jived as close as humanly possible. This is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's about turning upside down everything we've established in Minnesota about people's right to vote. One of the nursing homes up north, we asked the administrator, 'Of the 30 residents you have here, how many have a valid picture ID?' One. Those of us who are active think, 'Well, this makes sense, you need a valid picture ID to get on an airplane, you need a picture ID to cash a check,' but there's a lot of people in Minnesota who don't have the ID - they have to go get their birth certificate, and some people don't even know where that is. Then you have the military who are serving overseas, you have a large number of people in rural Minnesota who mail in their ballots - that's going to have to be revised. If this passes, the 2014 election will be a disaster. There'll be snarls all over, people will question the results. You almost wonder if that's not people's intention."



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