Updated: 05/01/2014 7:35 AM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart
Gov. Mark Dayton is appealing for a "unity of purpose" as he delivered the capstone State of the State address of his term.
In his speech Wednesday night to a joint convention of the Legislature, Dayton said lawmakers of differing parties should reach for the ideal as they finalize tax-cut and spending bills this year.
The Democratic governor used the platform to recap state efforts to foster learning among the youngest students, connect more people with health insurance and partner with businesses looking to grow in Minnesota.
Dayton also says the state is making progress in delivering services to people and businesses that interact with government.
In his address, the governor said the Legislature and his administration have made sped up government tasks and become more responsive.
Dayton says moves to cut bureaucratic red tape have meant faster environmental permits for businesses and shorter waits for people with motor vehicle transactions. For example, he says it now takes an average of 19 days to register a car compared with the needed three months previously.
He says his "unsession" campaign to prune the books of outdated or duplicative laws have resulted in 121 deletions so far.
Dayton is also making a last-ditch push for $1.2 billion in public works borrowing.
A construction projects bill is among the major items yet to complete before lawmakers head home.
Coming into their session, Democratic and GOP legislative leaders said they would craft a bill limited to $850 million. But Dayton implored lawmakers in his State of the State on Wednesday to shoot higher so a greater backlog of projects can be addressed.
Unlike most measures, it requires a supermajority for passage so Republican buy-in is critical in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
One of Dayton's invited guests was the mayor of Luverne in Minnesota's southwestern corner. The city is counting on state bonding dollars for the Lewis and Clark water project deemed essential to shortages in that region.
Dayton says he finds the amount of mandatory testing by Minnesota schools excessive and counterproductive.
Dayton said in his State of the State address Wednesday night that he doesn't want to abandon testing - just make it more efficient and effective.
The Democratic governor says he is asking the Minnesota Department of Education to prepare an analysis for the 2015 Legislature of all the tests now required at each grade level.
Dayton also wants the department to recommend which tests could be streamlined, combined or eliminated. And he urges next year's lawmakers to work with state and national experts to reduce the amount of school testing and allow teachers to spend their time teaching students.
Republicans panned the speech in advance as a political look-ahead to Dayton's re-election campaign. It is the latest address by a Minnesota governor since 1977 and comes as lawmakers are scrambling to conclude their annual session.
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