The Big Story Blog

State of the State: Will 2012 beat 2011?

Posted at 6:20 AM on February 15, 2012 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

I ask you, legislators; I invite you; I implore you -- to join with me now, right here in our Capitol and pledge to the people of Minnesota that we will NOT shut down their government, our government -- not next July 1st, not any July 1st, not any day ever.

It should not happen; it need not happen - not as long as we are willing to work together and to compromise our individual views for the common good.

We know how that turned out.

Five months after Gov. Mark Dayton used his first State of the State speech to warn against a government shutdown, it happened anyway. Much of the state government closed July 1, delivering three weeks of turmoil.

To get a budget deal and reopen government, Dayton and GOP lawmakers agreed to changes that effectively hiked local property taxes for many and delayed payments meant for schools.

As Dayton readies for his second State of the State speech tonight, the good news is the state's financial picture is much improved.

The November budget forecast showed a happy surprise -- a surplus of $876 million for the 2012-2013 budget cycle. And the state's unemployment rate sits at 5.7 percent; a full percentage point lower than a year ago.

While the numbers look better, though, the deep political divisions remain.

Dayton two weeks ago savaged Republican lawmakers as unfit to govern after they rejected the governor's chief public utilities regulator.

Republicans and Democrats will wrangle through the fall on proposed changes to the Minnesota constitution, including an amendment to ban same sex marriages that has Minnesota voters split in two.

And, yes, there's still that little matter of trying to find an acceptable public financing plan to build a new Vikings stadium.

Dayton's approach tonight will set the tone for the legislative session. What message will he deliver? Will it make a difference?

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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