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Dayton weighs in on budget plans, minimum wage, legislative pay raises, the stadium — and even Kluwe

On differing budget plans, he urged the public to tune out “the noise of democracy,” saying the final result will be “a good story.”

The governor's top priority continues to be the budget.
MinnPost file photo by James Nord

This was what you call your wide-ranging news conference.

Gov. Mark Dayton in a Wednesday noon session covered everything from the departure of Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to the fishing opener — not to mention minimum wages, pay increases for legislators, a backup funding plan for the Vikings stadium, and the state of budget negotiations with DFL legislative leaders.

The top priority, of course, is the budget. Dayton, House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk each is carrying a substantially different proposal for increasing state revenue.

But the governor, citing former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, said that the public shouldn’t get too caught up in the differences.

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“Tom Daschle called this ‘the noise of democracy,’ ” Dayton said. “What matters is the outcome. At the end of the session, we’ll have a good story to tell.”

Reading between the lines of the governor’s remarks, it would appear that the Senate plan, which includes changes in the sales tax structure, will see the greatest changes during negotiations. The governor also seems to be holding onto a slim hope that a bonding bill could become part of a final negotiation.

One issue that won’t be moving forward is tighter gun control, a situation that “is disappointing” to the governor.

But he did not chastise Thissen for his decision to pull guns off the agenda: “He had to make a decision based on what was possible and what was not.’’

Here are the governor’s comments on other subjects:

• Dayton wants to see the minimum wage raised to the level closer to what the House supports — $9.50 an hour — as opposed to the lower $7.75 number, although he won’t veto a bill that ends up at the Senate end of the spectrum.

“Something is better than nothing,’’ he said. “I want work to pay. Somebody working full time, trying to support a family, should be able to make the poverty level.”

Higher minimum wages, Dayton said, would “relieve taxpayers,” who he said currently are forced to cover “the gap between low wages and an acceptable standard of living.”

• On the subject of pay, Dayton also continued to push for a raise for legislators.

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“I got booed in Shakopee, and I suppose I’d be booed in other places as well, but I believe that legislators are woefully underpaid.”

He again praised legislators for their dedication and hard work, calling legislators “the best bargain in Minnesota. … They ought to be able to afford a decent life.”

–The governor also said that before the session ends, there will be a backup plan for funding the public’s portion of the Vikings stadium.

“A surprise,” said Dayton, smiling.

When reporters pushed, Dayton said the money would not come from the general fund and probably not from the memorabilia taxes currently in the House tax bill.

What then?

Dayton suggested maybe the state will tax “North Dakotans.”

He’d say no more. But he made it clear he wants a backup plan (to supplement the lagging e-pulltabs and e-bingo revenue) in place before legislators go home.

• As for the Vikings’ decision to cut Kluwe, the team’s record-setting punter, Dayton suggested it would be good for “sports officials to be honest.” This was a reference to the fact that Vikings officials had said they were bringing in a new punter “to compete” with the outspoken Kluwe.

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Dayton noted that there was no competition.

• And finally, of course, he pushed the idea of taxing Minnesota’s wealthiest, saying in his view the wealthiest should be willing to pay at higher levels.

 “That’s a responsibility of citizenship,’’ he said.