From a distance, Minnesota’s Democrat governor Mark Dayton may seem like a rabidly ideological operator. His legislative agenda has included such gems as creating a new statewide bureaucracy to police students’ thoughts (even as the state struggles with one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation), the forced unionization of home-based daycare entrepreneurs who are now regarded as employees of the state, and devastating business to business taxes which have driven companies elsewhere.
However, the truth about Mark Dayton is decisively more pathetic. He’s not really ideological. Rather, he seeks the approval and adulation of those who are. A trust fund baby who shelters his wealth in neighboring South Dakota, Dayton’s life-long pursuit of public service has been more of a hobby than a philosophically-driven passion. He collects offices as one might stamps or insects. Before using his ex-wife’s money to buy the 2010 primary out from under the Democrat’s endorsed candidate, Dayton served a term a piece as Minnesota’s state auditor and its U.S. senator. Governor was just another feather to add to his cap.
Dayton’s hobbyist approach to governing can be discerned from his frequently expressed regrets regarding laws he has signed, typically when he discovers that they contain something he didn’t know about, or that they adversely affect a favored constituency. During a debate over medical marijuana earlier this year, Dayton was so conflicted between his nanny-state instincts and his heartfelt desire to help people that he advised one mother to buy marijuana illegally on the street! (He later denied doing so even in the face of corroborating witnesses.)
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The latest example of this oops-I-signed-it-again governing comes after a minimum wage hike passed earlier this year. It phases the minimum wage from its current $6.15 to a whopping $9.50 by 2016.
Raising the minimum wage remains a perennial point on the political left’s agenda which elected Democrats are expected to support. Dayton no doubt swelled with pride upon signing the legislation. But he may have recently entertained second thoughts.