Dayton leads speech with Range jobless benefits

Gov. Mark Dayton delivers his annual State of the State address at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, March 8, 2016. (screenshot)

Gov. Mark Dayton delivers his annual State of the State address at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, March 8, 2016. (screenshot)

Gov. Mark Dayton delivered his annual State of the State address before the Minnesota legislature last night. Like many such addresses, he highlighted his top priorities for the next few months, including investments in transportation and broadband infrastructure and investments in communities suffering from economic hardship.

Leading Dayton’s speech, however, was a call on state leaders to extend jobless benefits for Iron Range miners laid off amid the current downturn in the iron ore and steel markets.

Here’s what Dayton said:

To begin, too many Minnesotans are still suffering. It is imperative that we devote some of our time and the resources available over the next ten weeks to relieving some of that suffering and rectifying some of those inequities.

For starters, I will hold the Speaker and House Republicans, to their commitments the last couple months to provide 26 weeks of extended unemployment benefits retroactively to those good men and women on the Iron Range, who, through no fault or choice of their own, have been victimized by illegal dumping of foreign steel into this country.

If you keep those promises – and send the Iron Range families the unemployment benefits they need and have earned – I will sign that legislation next week. If you don’t, it will be a broken promise that people will long remember.

I pledge to work with you in this session to provide meaningful unemployment tax reductions for Minnesota businesses. But that change deserves proper review through your established committees and procedures.

To hold $29 million of desperately needed unemployment benefits hostage to $272 million in fund cuts is unnecessary. And it’s cruel.

Range lawmakers appreciated the attention Dayton showed this Iron Range issue.

“I applaud Governor Dayton for his steadfast support of miners and the Iron Range,” said Representative Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) in a statement. “Since the start of the economic crisis on the Iron Range the Governor and his team have done everything they can to bring immediate relief to families on the Iron Range.  I appreciate his commitment to working families and I know he is a true friend to the Iron Range.”

Newly elected State. Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls) attended his first State of the State last night, and commented on the politics of the past week.

“It is an honor to listen to the Governor Dayton deliver his State of the State address,” said Ecklund. “Unfortunately, the first week of the legislative session has be marred by politicians trying to use the struggle of families on the Iron Range as a bargaining chip for corporate tax cuts. I want to thank Governor Dayton for his continuous efforts to put Iron Range families first and his support for extending unemployment benefits. Extending unemployment benefits should have been the first priority for the legislature and it is shameful that has once again been delayed because of worst kind of politics.”

House GOP leaders had floated a bill that would have extended the jobless benefits while including $273 million in business rebates from the state unemployment fund. That bill was presented on the session’s opening day, but failed to get a vote.

GOP Speaker Kurt Daudt blamed DFLers for not accepting that deal:

“It’s unfortunate that just one day after Governor Dayton halted good-paying jobs at Twin Metals, Democrats have decided to delay immediate help for out-of-work steelworkers,” Daudt said in a statement. “Republicans are committed to providing temporary assistance to those in need, as well as long-term solutions that will bring badly needed jobs to the Iron Range economy.”

Time will tell how these different perspectives will bear out in policy. One thing is for certain, here on the Iron Range the matter is seen with a great deal of disgust.

Dayton followed his plea for Range miners by asking the legislature to join him in addressing racial inequalities in communities around the state. It would appear that transportation and broadband infrastructure are his major agenda items for the year.

The most unusual thing about Gov. Dayton’s speech this year was its location, the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center. The State Capitol is being renovated this year. Thus, lawmakers are working in temporary office and meeting spaces for a shortened 2016 session.

You can watch Gov. Mark Dayton’s 2016 State of the State address below:


  1. How is the MNGOP justifying that gutting $273 million from the state unemployment fund giving it away in rebates to business would be good for Minnesota workers? Or are they even bothering to try to put lipstick on that pig?

  2. Principle number 1: All tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy are always good.

    When the next recession finds the unemployment fund empty — just as when the school budget has to be gutted, teachers laid off, classes eliminated or overcrowded, higher education and research cut to the bone, college tuition priced out of range for working class kids, infrastructure repairs ignored, property taxes skyrocket while city and county budgets collapse because of loss of local government aid, and the bridge falls in the river — refer to principle number 1.

  3. Right. No one can predict when another recession would happen or how widespread or long lasting it might be. If they manage get a chunk of money out of the fund, you know they would soon be after the rest of it. That’s where their priorities are, with themselves, the corps and the wealthy. It sure isn’t with the rest of us. Employees contribute to the unemployment fund too but the rebate would go to their chosen few. That’s a robbery followed up by a punch in the face. When people tell you straight out who they are while snickering at you, believe them.

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