Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Dayton profiled in governor's race

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 10/28/2010 8:42 AM

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Mark Dayton says property taxes are the No. 1 issue he hears about on the campaign trail. The huge increases of recent years have been devastating for farmers. It's meant cuts in profitability for some and loss of viability for others.

Farmers need to be able to make a profit in the marketplace, Dayton said. When they do, it's multiplied through rural communities. Communities depend on strong market prices, he said.

Dayton proposes to slow the rate of property tax increase by continuing state funding for local government aid and county aid programs. Property taxes are the most regressive tax, he said. Local government aid is essential to keeping property taxes down and providing services, he said. The formula deserves an updated look based on changing situations.

Dayton has promised to increase state funding for public schools. He said per pupil state aid has been cut $1,300 during Gov. Tim Pawlenty's tenure. Minnesota is one of the few states that don't fund all day kindergarten, he said.

Just to fund the new students coming through the doors will be expensive, Dayton said, and schools are desperate to raise revenue. By the end of the decade, 70 percent of jobs in Minnesota will require a post high school education, Dayton said. The key to Minnesota's success has always been well educated, hardworking people.

In order to fund his priorities, Dayton wants to raise revenue progressively on the highest income earners in the state.

He would raise income taxes on the top 4 percent of income earners in Minnesota, which is $173,000 for joint filers and $152,000 for individual filers. This would raise $1.9 billion, Dayton said.

He said he would make taxes fairer in Minnesota while protecting the middle class.

Dayton said he has been a champion for farmers and will continue to be one as Minnesota's governor. Politicians roll the dice every four years, he said, but farmers roll the dice every spring and every fall and every day in between for a much more noble goal.

Q. How can the state support the economic engine of agriculture?

A. By putting a turkey research and dairy research facility in the 2011bonding bill, not waiting until 2012, Dayton said.

He wants to increase funding for the livestock investment grant program,which will protect jobs.He wants to streamline the permitting process for faster approval ofprojects of all kinds, while still maintaining environmental protections.

State employees will have to work faster and more efficiently. They willhave to be responsible for meeting a deadline. That doesn't meansacrificing oversight or protection, Dayton said, it means streamliningbureaucracy and making people accountable.Fourth, keeping property taxes down helps agriculture. This is adifference between him and Tom Emmer, he said. For every $1 cut from

local, county or school funding, property taxes rise 67 cents, Daytonsaid, citing the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Q. What innovative ideas do you have to fund rural schools?

A. State funding is crucial.Dayton said the governor needs to restore the financial commitment by thestate and reduce the reliance on property tax funding.

Q. Would you include money for a dairy research facility in your bonding

proposal?

A. Yes, a dairy and turkey facility. Dayton hopes to pass a bonding billearly in the 2011 session to get the money out there before the springconstruction season.

Q. Does Minnesota need an Extension service?

A. Yes. The University of Minnesota is a land grant college found to serveall of Minnesota and that includes the agricultural economy. One of theessential roles of the university is to provide information to theagricultural public, Dayton said.

Q. If so, how should the Extension service and experiment station be funded?

A. "We need to continue the state investment," he said, adding that theExtension service provides multiple economic benefits to the agriculturaleconomy that exceed the actual cost of the program.

Q. Reorganizing state agencies has been a campaign theme. If electedgovernor, will you continue to have a state agriculture department? Ifnot, where will those activities be housed?

A. Yes, Dayton said he will have a professional head the department whounderstands the importance of the agency to all Minnesota, especiallyfarmers. He respects former Rep. Gene Hugoson, but he thinks it's time fora change. Hugoson has been the longest serving commissioner he knows.

He wants to strengthen the role of the department, especially in promotingMinnesota agricultural products throughout the country and the world.

Governors open doors with trade missions and he wants the ag department tofollow up with an active role. Dayton also supports value add forMinnesota agricultural products.

He sat on the Senate ag committee when it expanded the use of E85 andbiodiesel and passed the 2002 farm bill.