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Congress Convenes - Dayton Says Goodbye


Thursday, January 4, 2007   

The 110th U.S. Congress convenes today, and for the first time in over a decade, it will be under Democratic leadership with a lot of new faces. One is Minnesota DFL Representative Tim Walz of Mankato, who says a top priority is a bill to increase the federal minimum wage.

"We have people working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks out of the year, and making less than $11,000. That's just not fair. A livable wage removes their dependence on some of the programs that are out there that we have to offer when they can't make ends meet."

The bill is part of the Democrats' "First 100 Hours Agenda," and would boost the wage to $7.25.

Walz adds another "First 100 Hours" issue is helping more kids get into college.

"There will be a reduction in the interest rates on student loans. That will save the average college graduate about $6,000. I suppose some would argue that will cost us about $18 billion. I'm cognizant of that, but the research on this shows that money's going to enter right back into the economy, keeping the burden off our youngest workers."

Walz notes a key agenda item, which could come up later today, is ethics reform to help restore faith in government. Other early issues include addressing drug prices, reducing subsidies to oil companies and adopting the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission.

Outgoing Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton says he's comfortable with his legacy.

"I did my very best. I'm proud of the service I provided to Minnesota. I was one of 23 Senators to vote against the Iraq War resolution. I believe I've upheld the high standards for public service, in terms of integrity and honesty and hard work, that is a bipartisan tradition of Minnesota government and Senators."

There are three other new Minnesotans serving in Congress - Representatives Michele Bachman and Keith Ellison, and Senator Amy Klobuchar. Dayton didn't seek re-election. He says he may consider a run for Governor in 2010. Walz represents Minnesota's 1st Congressional District.

Democrats won control of Congress in the November elections.

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