On Monday, January 23 Gov. Dayton gave his State of the State Address to the joint convention of the House and Senate. His address began with a reminder to Minnesotans of the promises he’d made six years ago during his inaugural speech which emphasized a balanced budget and job growth as his top priorities.
Today, Gov. Dayton, with the help of the DFL Senate, has kept their promise to clean up the state’s financial mess by turning a $6 billion deficit in 2011 into a projected surplus of $1.4 billion. Minnesota also has a $2 billion rainy day fund to protect the state against future economic downturns.
The governor also noted that when he took office six years ago, 202,000 Minnesotans were unemployed and the unemployment rate was 6.9%. Since then, the state has added 255,000 jobs and unemployment is now below 4%.
The state of the state is strong and the governor vowed he will work to continue “our state’s economic prudence.” However, as good as the news is, not everyone is sharing in the economic successes. There are many Minnesotans who continue to struggle and that economic disparity provides an uncertain future for many. With this in mind, the Governor outlined some of his priorities for the next two years:
- Education: The governor wants to continue his strong commitment to education with increases in per pupil spending, support in funding for child care, pre-kindergarten, and higher education.
- Transportation: After he thanked the Senate DFL for trying to pass sustainable transportation funding, Gov. Dayton labeled Minnesota’s transportation deficiencies as “urgent.” Gov. Dayton said we need to invest in state highway projects and road and bridge improvements. He emphasized he is willing to work with legislators to find a real solution most of us can accept. He also reiterated that doing these projects will be costly, but it would be far costlier to ignore them.
- Health Care: The Governor advocating for preserving important parts of the Affordable Care Act, such as letting parents cover adult children up to age 26 and requiring insurers to accept people with pre-existing conditions. He also praised the improvements in MNsure and said more work needs to be done to ensure those who faced drastic increases in premiums will not be faced with rising costs in the future.
- Dayton also provided a vision for a public health-insurance option. In a prepared statement, the governor’s public option plan indicated that health insurance coverage would be available to Minnesotans who earn between 201% and 400% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, qualifying household income would be between $49,200 and $97,200 annually.
- Clean Water: Clean water will continue to be a priority for this administration. He called out a proposed tax provision to help local governments and farmers with the new buffer law and hinted at including water-treatment projects in rural Minnesota as a priority.
About 40 minutes into the governor’s speech, his State of the State address was cut short due to a brief fainting spell. He was able to stand on his own after several minutes and was able to walk from the House Chamber. The Governor was checked out and is okay. He was able to release his budget recommendations on Tuesday, Jan. 24.