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Dayton talks gov. run during Willmar visit, says richest pay more taxes under his plan

WILLMAR -- Mark Dayton has a simple foundation for his campaign to be Minnesota's next governor -- tax the rich.

Dayton, a former U.S. senator who left office at the end of 2006, was in Willmar on Wednesday to talk about his plans for the upcoming campaign. He is one of about a dozen candidates from the DFL Party in the 2010 governor's race. The Republican Party also has a number of gubernatorial candidates.

Currently, the state's richest re-sidents pay only three-quarters of what other taxpayers pay in taxes, as a percentage of income, Dayton said.

He would raise the taxes on the top 10 percent of taxpayers, so that they pay the same percentage as others in the state.

That money could be used to help relieve the state's budget deficit problems and could also help public schools, he said.

Republican critics have said his proposal would prompt wealthy Minnesotans to leave the state. Dayton said he didn't think they would.

Instead, he said, he thinks many wealthy people would agree to pay the same percentage as others.

"If somebody wants to pay no taxes," he said, they probably have already moved.

"This state desperately needs the revenue," he said. "I think we need to look at what are the essential services."

The state's promise to take over education funding seven years ago was a good one, Dayton said, but schools have suffered fr-om a lack of funding in recent years.

"It ought to be the most secure funding, and we've made it the most vulnerable," he said.

It's important to put more state money into public education, he said. "That's our future."

Dayton said he is the only candidate in the DFL field who has won a statewide election or run a state agency.

He was state economic development commissioner in the 1980s and was elected state auditor in 1990, in addition to his election to the Senate in 2000.

When he was in the Senate, he often spoke of his frustration with the slow process of lawmaking.

"The executive branch is where you can be proactive ... where you can make a difference," he said, and he feels he's more suited to that work.

Dayton has said he will run in a primary for governor if he doesn't get the party's endorsement. While he wants the endorsement, he said he doesn't expect to get it because of his primary decision.

Though there's a definite primary race in the party's future, Dayton said he doesn't expect Democrats to tear each other apart in the primary.

"I think we will run a positive, issue-oriented campaign," he said. "I think there's universal agreement that we need to elect a Democratic governor."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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