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Public Workers Union Praises Dayton’s First State of the State

February 10, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday laid out what he calls a five-point plan for the prosperity of Minnesota. His plan, announced in his first "State of the State" address, includes investment in jobs, education, transportation, health and improved government.

Jim Monroe, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), says the governor's speech delivered a fair, proactive approach to a state budget fix.

"I was extremely pleased with his willingness to focus on jobs for the state of Minnesota, which is absolutely essential. And he didn't shy away from the problems we are facing, part of which is revenue. And he also kept the door open, that things take a balanced approach."

In his speech, Dayton announced that tax increases on the state's wealthiest will be included in the budget plan he releases next week, asking Minnesota's top-tier earners to help restore Minnesota to greatness.

In the GOP response to Dayton's address, House Speaker Kurt Zellers said raising taxes during tough economic times is detrimental to the state's economy.

Monroe says the cuts-only approach has proved to be ineffective.

"It hasn't worked in the past, and it hasn't created more jobs in Minnesota. As a matter of fact, it's made us less effective as a state. The high-paying jobs that Minnesota was known for have gone away over the last eight years. Median household income in the state of Minnesota has dropped about $8,000 since 2002."

Monroe adds that Dayton's approach to balancing the budget also includes a commitment to reforming state government.

"That's always a scary thing for state workers, and public employees in general. But the front-line workers, the people who do the work, are people who can help him get this reorganization done on a cost-effective basis and provide better services."

Improving government efficiency doesn't necessarily have to mean job cuts, Monroe says, and even private-sector business doesn't necessarily look at layoffs first when curbing spending or streamlining services.

"They actually go in and look at how the jobs are performed, how things interact, make commitments to any necessary training, and are willing to do some of the financial commitments that are necessary for long-term savings, and more effective - in this case, governmental - services."

According to U.S. Census data, Minnesota is already the tenth leanest state in the nation in terms of the number of public workers per capita of population.

The full text of Dayton's address is available at mn.gov/governor/images/State-of-the-State.pdf.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN