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Mark Dayton visits Park Rapids on state tour

Gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, right, a democrat, met with constituents in Park Rapids Wednesday on an 87-county tour across the state. Vern Peterson, left, listens to Dayton. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton visited with about a dozen constituents Wednesday morning in Park Rapids. Hubbard County was the 84th county he visited on his 87-county tour across Minnesota.

The morning meeting at Bella Caffé focused on taxes, health care and education.

"I'm all ears, I find I get some of my best information by listening to others," Dayton said.

He is not seeking the DFL endorsement at the state convention. He explained that he will run in the primary election Aug. 10.

"I'm disqualified from being considered for the endorsement because I won't promise to stop my campaign if I'm not endorsed," Dayton said.

He thinks that all voters should have a chance to decide who will be on the ballot in November.

Constituents who gathered with Dayton asked him what he thought about Governor Pawlenty proceeding with a lawsuit against the federal government against the health care bill.

The former U.S. senator said he doesn't think the governor has any grounds to sue.

"I don't think he has any and that's what Attorney General Lori Swanson determined," Dayton said.

The federal government's authority over health care was established over Medicare, he said.

"This is just a political ploy," he said.

Dayton said that if he became governor he would work with the legislature to balance the state budget. His philosophy is to raise taxes on the richest individuals in the state.

"I'll make taxes progressive again in Minnesota," Dayton said.

He thinks the budget can become balanced by making taxes fair.

"The governor keeps saying there haven't been tax increases but I find that to be untrue throughout much of the state," he said.

Property taxes have increased drastically in the last few years, Dayton said.

"Property taxes are the most unfair tax," he said. "The income tax, if it's progressive, is the best way to raise revenues and fund education and essential state and local services."

Dayton said health care needs to be fixed but the underlying problem is insurance companies.

"People have to pay so much in health insurance before they even pay for health care," he said.

He would like to expand the state government's "public option" to cover more Minnesotans. He would like to broaden Minnesota's health care into a "single payer" model for the nation.

For education, Dayton wants to use some of the additional state funding he will gain from a progressive tax to increase public school teachers' salaries. He also wants additional funding to go to lower class sizes. Too many elementary classes throughout Minnesota are overcrowded with 30 to 35 children, he said. Too many high school classes have 40 to 50 students. Those class sizes are "leaving too many children behind."

Dayton wrapped up his 87-county tour of Minnesota this week.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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