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Tribune opinion: Dayton health issues arise as he announces plans

Gov. Mark Dayton has given legislators and Minnesotans two significant health surprises this week. While delivering his State of the State address before a combined session of the Minnesota Legislature Monday night, Dayton suddenly began slurring...

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Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton gives his annual State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the State Capitol in St. Paul, Monday, January 23, 2017. (St. Paul Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Gov. Mark Dayton has given legislators and Minnesotans two significant health surprises this week.

While delivering his State of the State address before a combined session of the Minnesota Legislature Monday night, Dayton suddenly began slurring his words and then fainted briefly near the end of his 45-minute speech. Within a few minutes, Dayton was smiling before rising to walk out of the chamber with some help.

Then after announcing his budget proposal Tuesday morning, he shocked the media in attendance with an announcement that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer on Friday.

Dayton was headed Tuesday afternoon for a Mayo Clinic appointment. He told reporters Tuesday that he does not think the prostate cancer and his fainting incident are related.

The governor, who turns 70 Thursday, has had a history of health issues since taking office. He fainted during a campaign event in 2016 and was hospitalized overnight due to dehydration.

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He also has had several hip and back sugeries and related recovery periods.

During his State of the State speech Monday, Dayton spoke of his pride and love of Minnesota.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle were quick to say Dayton was in their prayers and expressed hope for a quick recovery.

During his speech Monday and in his budget released Tuesday, Dayton unveiled his vision for his next two years and noted positive metrics during his administration.

Metrics cited by Dayton include:

β€’ Minnesota's unemployment rate has fallen by nearly half during his two terms, dropping from 6.9 to 3.9 percent December.

β€’ While he entered office with a significant budget deficit, the state budget now projects a surplus of $1.4 billion, plus a record of more than $2 billion in the state rainy day fund.

Among his proposals in his $45.8 billion two-year budget

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β€’ A $75 million investment for prekindergarten programs

β€’ More than $500 million for K-12 education programs

β€’ A $318 milion funding increase for higher educaton

β€’ A $300 million tax cut plan, including expanding the "Working Family Tax Credit" and a tax credit for child care

β€’ A $6 billion funding plan, with revenue generated a period of time, to fund transporation infrastructure across the state

Republican leaders will have their own set of priorities for the 2017-18 budget. Dayton's budget proposal will face challenges in the Legislature, with both the House and Senate now under Republican majorities, giving him less leverage than in recent years.

However, the Republicans also lack a veto-proof majority in either chamber, so a Dayton veto will be an available negotiation tool for the governor.

So negotiations between Dayton and legislative leaders in the coming months will be interesting. Hopefully, the two sides will find their way to a workable compromise for the betterment of all Minnesotans.

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