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Dayton Hosts Packed Duluth Town Hall for Public Q&A

Posted at: 03/20/2013 10:42 PM
Updated at: 03/21/2013 12:53 AM
By: Alan Hoglund
ahoglund@wdio.com

Stopping in Duluth for his first in a series of town hall meetings, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is trying to cement his plan for the state’s fiscal future.

According to his office, he's calling the stops "Meetings with Mark." The hope is that they will engage Minnesotans in personal conversation about his proposed investments in education, job creation and improving the lives of middle-class families.

Arriving a few minutes early to the Public Safety Building, Dayton walked into a room where every seat was filled, and there was no more room to stand. Members of the audience even spilled into the hallway.

Dayton started his town hall by referencing a core piece of his budget plan - an income tax increase on Minnesota’s wealthiest two percent.

It drew a harsh response from a man in the back of the room. “Why don't you put that idea aside. It is a bad idea and it's not going to be fair. The wealthy are doing all the work," he said.

Following the man's statements the crowd booed.

There was no other audience reaction that matched it. However, other speakers did criticize Dayton’s budget plans, or asked that he tweak them a bit.

A woman asked Dayton to nearly double his planned 94-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes. She said it would keep young people from starting smoking. But another woman, a convenience store owner, suggested Dayton eliminate the tax increase all together, saying it would drive Minnesotans to the black market for cigarettes, or out-of-state.

Later, a man cited research, saying crime rates will increase should gun control legislation become law. He asked whether Dayton had set aside money to pay for law enforcement to handle that increase amount of crime.

Dayton did not respond directly to the question but said “nobody is going to confiscate your guns, nobody. I give you my word.”

While Dayton was light hearted and seemed to brush off criticism, he did take a serious tone during his response to the question on gun control, saying if there is anything we can do to reduce gun violence, we have to try.