- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton started his second term as Minnesota governor Monday by making a case that putting more taxpayer money into education should be viewed as an investment, not straight-up spending to grow government as his opponents might cast it.

The Democrat’s inauguration to a second and final term comes on the eve of a new legislative session where he’ll propose a two-year budget and education initiatives that he hopes will position Minnesota for the future. Dayton will have to work with a divided Legislature with Republicans in charge of the House and Democrats leading the Senate. No sitting GOP lawmakers attended the ceremony nor did the Senate majority leader.

Dayton’s 96-year-old father, Bruce, and three siblings looked on as he took his oath. His son, Eric, stood on stage holding the governor’s grandson, Hugo.

That younger generation was the focus of Dayton’s speech, particularly efforts to improve education quality.

“There’s a big difference between spending and investing. Spending is for now. People spend money to buy what they need or want right away,” Dayton said. “Investing is for the future. People invest money now to produce future benefits and rewards. Wise financial management requires understanding this difference. And striking a proper balance between them.”

Dayton didn’t say how much extra he’ll seek to put into public schools. But he told the Landmark Center audience he’ll propose new money for preschool programs, year-round school options, after-school programs with academic enrichment and advanced classes in certain skill areas.

His budget is due to lawmakers by Jan. 27 and there is a projected $1 billion surplus at his disposal.

Dayton also declared transportation an “essential investment” - a preview of another fight to come because he has said he’ll recommend tax increases in that area. Republicans, and some Democrats, have been cool to proposals to hike taxes on gas and assess other transportation-related charges.

He sought to defuse geographic rivalries already cropping up given the rural bent of the new GOP House majority.

“What helps some Minnesotans usually helps all of us,” Dayton said. “So let’s cheer each other’s successes, not resent them.”

House Speaker-designate Kurt Daudt, who was at a party fundraiser nearby during the inauguration, said he called Dayton to wish him well and planned to catch up with him at a reception. He said he agrees with Dayton’s emphasis on education but not necessarily his solution.

“I don’t think the answer is just money. We’re certainly willing to look at everything but I think we need to analyze the problem to figure out what’s going on,” Daudt said. “There’s a lot of education reforms we can do that certainly don’t cost anything.”

Dayton turns 68 in a few weeks and is already the oldest governor Minnesota has had. He is entering the final stretch of a political career where he’s also held the titles of state auditor and U.S. senator.

Former Gov. Al Quie, a Republican, said Dayton might enjoy more political freedom now but those he’s trying to cut deals with don’t.

“Gov. Dayton does not have to look over his shoulder anymore,” Quie said. “All of these other folks do. That’s what hurts them.”

Besides Dayton, Attorney General Lori Swanson and Auditor Rebecca Otto took their oaths to begin third terms. Tina Smith, who had been Dayton’s chief of staff, became lieutenant governor and Steve Simon, a former legislator, took over as secretary of state. All are Democrats.

Dayton was heading from the ceremony to a nearby reception in downtown St. Paul. He and the other statewide officials plan to hold an open-to-the-public inaugural gala on Saturday.

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