Dayton: Higher taxes needed because cuts would be 'drastic'

Former Sen. Mark Dayton said Friday that balancing the state budget through substantial cuts would ignore the state's priorities and values.

Dayton, who is one of three seeking the DFL gubernatorial nomination, said raising income taxes for the wealthiest Minnesotans is a much better alternative to solving the state's projected $6 billion budget deficit.

"I think the cuts that will be necessary are just going to be so drastic," Dayton told MPR's Morning Edition. "We could actually balance the budget in a very straightforward way: We'd provide public school three days a week and we'd balance the budget. Obviously that's absurd."

"The budget is about our values and priorities as well as about dollars and sense," he added.

Dayton spoke to Morning Edition with less than three weeks before Minnesotans will vote in a primary election to determine who will face Republican Tom Emmer in November.

Emmer, and to a lesser extent DFL candidates Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Matt Entenza, plan to use spending cuts to help balance the budget. But Dayton said he's gone through the budget forecast and doesn't see how $4 billion to $6 billion could be cut without hurting Minnesotans.

Dayton said he wants to raise $4 billion in revenue by raising taxes for the 278,000 Minnesota households -- those whose incomes are in the top 10 percent.

"If you don't raise taxes on the rich, you have to raise taxes on everyone else or you have to cut," Dayton said.

Dayton said much of the reason for raising taxes is to put more money toward education. He told Morning Edition Friday that the delayed payments that have been made to school districts to balance the budget in the past would mostly be paid back during the next two-year budget cycle.

"I'm the only one of the three of us who would repay that shift or most of it in the next biennium," he said.

Dayton also criticized Emmer, calling him "Tommy Tax-Free." He said Emmer has proposed eliminating taxes for several groups, including Thursday when he promised to eliminate income tax on veterans' pensions.

Dayton said he would tax veterans' pensions similar to Social Security benefits, exempting some but not all of the funds.

"I just think it's extremely irresponsible with a $6 billion deficit," Dayton said of Emmer's tax cut proposals.

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