Governor hopeful Dayton visits Austin

Published 7:15 am Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Former U.S. senator and Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton (D) made a pair of stops in Austin Monday and discussed everything from Local Government Aid to immigration to how to create new jobs.

Dayton is in the midst of his “87 Counties in 87 Days Tour” that will take him through every county in the state by April 17.

The tour kicked off Jan. 20, the same day Dayton officially announced his candidacy, although he filed for the election more than a year ago.

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“It’s the best learning opportunity possible,” he said about the tour, which in Austin Monday included stops at the Coffee House on Main followed by a visit to the Seibel Center.

At the Coffee House on Main, about 10 people sat down with Dayton, including mayor Tom Stiehm, for a meet and greet that lasted roughly an hour.

Local Government Aid took up a portion of the beginning of the conversation, with Stiehm explaining some of the cuts Austin has faced following a decrease in LGA.

Dayton sympathized and said, “I’m for trimming the fat, but I’m not for cannibalizing it.”

Dayton’s statements came on the same day as Gov. Pawlenty proposed millions of more LGA cuts for 2011.

“Without LGA, local government services suffer, and local property taxes then increase,” Dayton said.

On immigration, several in the discussion agreed that the issue is a sensitive, but important one for Austin, including the mayor, who said, “it causes a lot of hard feelings; we need something done.”

Dayton, agreed and shared his stance.

“First, everybody who’s in this country should be here legally, and that’s their legal responsibility,” he said.

In addition, the former senator said that while it’s unrealistic to expect the government to physically deport millions of people, the way the nation deals with illegal immigration needs to change.

“It’s a very dysfunctional system, and one that has to be addressed by the federal government,” he said.

On job creation, Dayton said putting people back to work is a need both statewide and nationally.

“We have 214,000 Minnesotans outs of work right now,” he said. “We have to put them back to work. … As a country, our focus needs to be on generating the jobs we need for the future to expand the economy …”

Dayton’s recipe for job creation includes investing in education, good infrastructure and good state and local services and funding these things through tax increases on the wealthier people in the state.

Austin residents at the meet and greet described the candidate as “level headed” and one who is committed to the ordinary person despite coming from a wealthy family.

Dayton’s great grandfather started the Dayton’s department store brand that has since evolved into the Target Corporation.

“He’s level headed and for us,” Austin resident Vern Grove said. “There’s not much more you can say than that.”