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Dayton says tax the rich in Detroit Lakes visit

Former Sen. Mark Dayton, center, stopped by Brewed Awakening Thursday afternoon to campaign for his governor's bid. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

Former Sen. Mark Dayton has a simple plan for tackling the state's budget woes.

He wants to increase the income tax for the wealthiest 10 percent of Minnesotans. Dayton stopped by Brewed Awakening in Detroit Lakes on Thursday for a meet-and-greet with DFL supporters.

"It's members of my family who I know can afford to pay their fair share," Dayton, an heir to the Dayton's Department Store fortune, said. "The wealthiest 10 percent pay in the state, according to the Department of Revenue, three-fourths of their income of their proportioned share of income in state and local taxes."

A tax increase for the wealthy can raise $3.8 billion in additional revenue for the current budget cycle, Dayton said.

Dayton points to the tax issues as being of fairness. His statement on the wealthiest not paying their fair share comes from a 2009 state Department of Revenue study on effective tax rates.

"Not only is that not fair, when you look at state and local budget deficits, either you have to raise money from the whealthiest people or you have to have another draconian reduction in education, health care and local government services," he said.

Dayton's main priorities are short, with health care and energy being part of his main planks.

With health care reform at the federal level in limbo with the election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, reform may be pushed back to the states.

Dayton favors a single-payer system where everyone is insured by government, with no out-of-pocket costs for patients.

"We have all of this hodgepodge of programs with federal and state, I'm for national single-payer health care," Dayton said.

Failing that, he said the single payer system would fall to Minnesota.

"We would take the health insurance companies and their profiteering out of the equation," he said.

He said Republicans have been fear mongers in the debate.

"The Czar of Russia is going to be your doctor," Dayton said in a mocking tone. "Or there are going to be death squads who decide who lives or dies.

"Right now it is the health insurance companies who decides who lives or who dies by what they will or won't pay for."

He said United Healthcare, one of Minnesota's largest health insurance companies, made $1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"That's money they made by not paying for health care," Dayton said.

As for energy policy, Dayton is proposing an Energy Savings Fund to weatherize government buildings.

State-owned building would be retrofitted first, with school and local government buildings having the ability to tap into the fund later.

The plan would be paid for using state bonds that would be repaid from saving energy.

"The experts say that the cost can be repaid in five to 10 years," Dayton said.

He said the University of Minnesota has set a goal of a zero-carbon footprint by the end of the year.

He said the plan would create jobs throughout the state.

"We can set the example for the private sector and throughout the country," Dayton said.

After deciding to not run for re-election to his Senate seat in 2006, he said the 2010 governor's race was always an option.

"I knew I wanted to continue in public service," he said. "And I didn't feel I'd be effective in Congress."

He said he's qualified for the governor's job after serving in three positions in the executive branch, including commissioner of economic development under the last DFL governor, Rudy Perpich.

Running directly in the primary, Dayton is bypassing the DFL endorsement process.

"I said back in 1997 when I ran for governor for the first time that I believe in democracy and the people should decide in an election," he said.

A potential negative could be a recent admission of a relapse of alcoholism during the end of his Senate term. He also admitted to battling depression and being treated through prescription medication for the condition.

"I wouldn't be running for governor if I didn't think I'd have the strength and ability to lead the state," Dayton said.

He said he felt relief from disclosing a deeply personal matter.

"The outpouring of support has been amazing," he said. "From people on the street to people in meetings. So many people and their families are engaged in those challenges in their life."

Dayton plans on visiting all 87 counties throughout the state in 87 days since kicking off the official start to his campaign Wednesday.

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