Gov. Dayton, challenger Johnson see world differently

By Don Davis Forum News Service DULUTH, Minn. -- Mark Dayton and Jeff Johnson see the world differently. Very differently. Democratic Gov. Dayton wants the minimum wage to rise as planned because "I believe in the old-fashioned notion that work s...


By Don Davis

Forum News Service



DULUTH, Minn. -- Mark Dayton and Jeff Johnson see the world differently.

Very differently.

Democratic Gov. Dayton wants the minimum wage to rise as planned because "I believe in the old-fashioned notion that work should pay" for the necessities of life.

His Republican challenger, Johnson, prefers to focus on what he calls "the maximum wage" to improve all Minnesotans' pay.

Dayton says more money is needed to improve transportation, which officials say needs a $12 billion injection to keep roads and bridges in good shape.

Johnson, on the other hand, feels roads and bridges should take priority in state spending, replacing other programs that could be cut or eliminated.

Dayton would allow the proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline to continue to work its way through the process at the state Public Utilities Commission.

Johnson claims that Dayton appointees to the board are holding up pipeline approval on behalf of environmentalists, and he would push it through.


Those and other issues illustrated differences between the two major Minnesota governor candidates during an hour-long debate sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.

The third debate involving the two produced no new revelations, but as Johnson said afterwards it may have made the "differences more stark."

It was the first debate without Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet. The two previous ones included her, and organizers of the two final debates have not invited her.

Johnson and Dayton often looked at, and scolded, each other during the early-morning debate.

When talking about a Vikings football stadium that costs more than $1 billion, half funded by tax money, Johnson explained the situation that was similar to other issues: "This is another example of how we are going to differ as much as we can possibly differ"

On the stadium, Johnson said taxpayers should not have paid for it, citing a new New Jersey stadium construction project that involved no government funds. "This whole deal has been a disaster."

Dayton, a champion for the facility, rebutted Johnson: "Tell 7,500 who are working to build the project that this is a disaster."

The first-term governor said the professional football team would be in Los Angeles or another city if Minnesota had not built a stadium to replace the Metrodome. The new facility, to be done in less than two years, is going up on the former Metrodome site. Dayton said it is bringing new vigor to a formerly run down part of downtown Minneapolis.


On the minimum wage, Dayton said that more than 300,000 Minnesotans will benefit directly as it rises to $9.50 an hour in the next two years, and others' wages also will rise.

"If you want to build a middle class, you have to give people a chance to earn that money through the workplace," Dayton said.

But Johnson, who said that he would do more to help the middle class than Dayton, said that Minnesotans do not want minimum wage jobs.

The Republican brought up a talking point he often uses, that half of the state's workforce is underemployed and a minimum wage increase would not help them. Johnson often promotes help for businesses, so they can create better jobs.

"You want to lower the minimum wage and want to lower taxes on the super wealthy," Dayton told Johnson.

Much of the answer to the road and bridge funding deficit, Johnson said, is to move them up to the top of the state priority list. In an earlier interview, Johnson said that means some programs could lose money.

Johnson said that too much transportation money is being spent on sidewalks, bicycle paths and other items other than roads and bridges. He suggested that in addition to changing priorities, he would borrow more money.

Dayton said that transportation borrowing already is at its upper limit and much transportation spending already goes to repaying previous loans.


The Democratic incumbent said the situation requires new revenue, but was not clear about how he would raise it. At a Forum News Service debate last week, he said he would propose a sales tax on gasoline, but the next day backed away a bit from the idea. In Duluth, he said that remains a possibility, but said attitudes like Johnson’s  that more money is not needed could kill the concept in the Legislature.

Both candidates professed support of the Sandpiper pipeline, which is proposed to go across northern Minnesota. And both said it eventually could ease railroad congestion.

Johnson accused Dayton and his three PUC appointees of stalling the pipeline, with plans to kill it after the Nov. 4 election. Dayton said that pipeline construction needs to be fully studied for environmental impacts before it is built.

The two also differed on MNsure, the state web-based health insurance sales program.

MNsure got off to a rocky start last year, but Dayton said it is improving and offers the country's lowest cost insurance. But, he said, some oppose it for political purposes.

"People who oppose the Affordable Care Act want to go back to Darwinian survival of the richest," he said to Johnson.

"It has been an unmitigated disaster since Day 1," Johnson told Dayton, then pledged to seek federal permission to make some changes in MNsure so innovations could be incorporated. He did not say what innovations he backs.


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