Dayton talks turkey, other topics

Gov. Dayton poses with a turkey during a Thanksgiving week event to recognize the state’s turkey industry. Tim Pugmire / MPR News

Gov. Mark Dayton honored Minnesota’s turkey industry today during an annual pre-holiday event at the Capitol.

There are 46 million turkeys raised in the state each year, making Minnesota the nation’s top producer. Dayton posed for pictures with one of the two live turkeys brought to the event. He also made it clear that he could not alter their fates.

“My authority to pardon unilaterally is extremely limited, so I don’t think I’m going to spare the turkey from anything,” Dayton quipped. “Presidents can pardon turkeys, but governors don’t have that same clout.”

John Gorton of Pelican Rapids, the president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, said the industry has seen big changes since it began in the state more than 75 years ago.

“We offer consumers, restaurants and food service businesses thousands of different turkey products,” Gorton said. “These products are safer more convenient and affordable because of advances in technology and improvements in our food productions system.”

Gorton said that his association is donating $13,000 worth of turkey products to Hunger Solutions Minnesota to help stock food shelves throughout the state.

Following the turkey main course, Dayton offered reporters some side dishes on other topics

Next week’s state economic forecast: Dayton noted that the previous forecast last February projected a $635 million surplus for the next biennium. He said national economic projections are running slightly below what they were at that time, but state revenues continue to be strong.

“So, we’ll see what we get,” he said.

Budget proposal preparations: Dayton said he plans to “dig in” after the forecast is released next week. He must present his two-year spending plan by Jan. 27.

“My staff has been has been working on it a great deal with my commissioners,” he said. “I have not been engaged directly, so far.”

Transportation funding: Dayton said he’ll revisit the proposal that he and Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle unveiled last spring. He said $6 billion is needed over the next decade to address the state’s needs.

“I’ll put something forward that they all can scream about. The reality is that we either invest more or we see our transportation system continue to get worse.”

Immigration: Dayton said he wants his staff and commissioners to better understand the legal ramifications of President Obama’s executive action on eligibility in Minnesota  for assistance programs and drivers’ licenses.

Cabinet: Dayton says he’ll have a clearer picture next week about the makeup of his cabinet during a second term. He said he’s optimistic most of his commissioners will stick around. But Dayton declined to elaborate on who was not asked to remain in the administration.

Impact of Capitol construction on the Legislative session: Dayton said there will be disruptions on lawmakers and the public.

“It’s going to be like a major highway project,” he said.

Sheehy: Dayton said he will appoint Lee Sheehy to continue as Chair of the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection.

“Lee and the Commission have done a phenomenal job these last four years,” he said. “It has been widely-recognized that they have been instrumental in broadening the diversity of our judicial team, and keeping it at a very high caliber.”