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Pioneer Editorial: Must work together to solve issues

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

There was nothing new in Gov. Mark Dayton's first State of the State address. Much of it we heard on the campaign trail. But the overarching chord throughout the speech was that of the cooperation needed to put Minnesota back on the road to prosperity.

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The Democratic governor talked on the campaign trail of making education his top priority, reiterating it in his State of the State address. Only this time he underscored the fact that K-12 education funding has declined 14 percent during the Pawlenty years, when inflation is included. But Republicans have always hailed K-12 education, claiming that they've always increased funding.

Gov. Dayton also set transportation funding as a priority and directed Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel to work with legislators on a funding mechanism. But we've done that, raising the gas tax over the objections of GOP lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto. What kind of funding mechanism will Republicans, now in charge of the Legislature, approve?

It's time for Minnesota's richest to pay their fair share in income taxes, says Gov. Dayton, a point with which we will not disagree. When times were good, taxes were cut in 1999 and 2000, but ever since then, we've tried to continue to cut taxes and to cut spending in some of the toughest times the state has ever seen.

As Gov. Dayton pointed out, there are 77,000 more unemployed Minnesotans now than in December 2002, before Gov. Pawlenty took office.

And yet today's Republicans continue the "no new taxes" pledge and that's one of their unmovable cornerstones. We do find it difficult, as does the governor, to see how a $6.2 billion budget deficit will be solved without increased revenue or horrific property tax increases as the state dumps and runs from programs, passing them onto to local governments.

These are indeed serious challenges. But Gov. Dayton realizes the seriousness of the situation and underscored the need for cooperation for what is best for Minnesota.

"Our shared success is essential to turn our state around and get us -- all of us -- working again. By all of us working together," he said. It won't be easy, but Gov. Dayton tried to appeal to the ideal that public policy that is good for Minnesota shouldn't have party labels attached.

Using the example of 9/11, he said lawmakers can come together for the common good, and charged Minnesota lawmakers with that task. We hope it works.

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