Dayton says education will define last term in office

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, January 6, 2015

By Bill Salisbury

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton launched his second and final term as Minnesota’s chief executive Monday by dedicating his next four years to restoring the state’s standing as a national and global leader in education excellence.

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“I want all Minnesotans to have access to the best possible educations, to the skills and training they will need to achieve their highest aspirations,” Dayton told a crowd of about 500 people in an inaugural address at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.

The way to improve education is by investing in it, he said. That will be his top priority for the state’s projected $1 billion budget surplus.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor delivered the speech the day before the state Legislature convenes for a five-month session. Later this month, he will propose a two-year, $40 billion-plus budget and more detailed plans for his education initiatives.

To reach his goals, Dayton will have to persuade the new Republican majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives, as well as the DFL-run Senate, to support him.

Four generations of Dayton’s family were present as he took the oath for his final stint in elective office. His 96-year-old father, Bruce, and a brother and two sisters watched from seats on the floor as the governor’s son, Eric, stood on the stage with a swearing-in Bible in one hand and the governor’s grandson, Hugo, on his other arm.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale celebrated his 87th birthday from a front-row seat.

At age 67, Dayton is Minnesota’s oldest governor. He has said he will not run for office again.

The inaugural ceremony was an all-DFL affair. In addition to Dayton, Attorney General Lori Swanson and state Auditor Rebecca Otto were sworn in for their third terms. Taking their oaths for the first time were Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Dayton’s former chief of staff, and Secretary of State Steve Simon, a former five-term state representative from Hopkins.

The ground floor of the Landmark Center’s four-story atrium was packed with past and current DFL legislators, other elected officials and party activists, but no Republicans were in sight.

House Republican Speaker-designate Kurt Daudt missed Dayton’s speech for a fundraiser, but he said he doesn’t think that will impair his relationship with the governor at the start of the legislative session that opens at noon Tuesday.

Daudt said the fundraiser was previously scheduled, and the conflict only really dawned on him in the past several days. He said he left a message for the governor Monday morning and planned to attend a post-inaugural reception later in the day.

—Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC