MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton reaffirmed his commitment to raising income taxes on the top 2 percent of earners in strong terms Wednesday, as the Republican-controlled Legislature heads toward a midterm election that will shape the second half of his first term.
The Democratic governor told a University of Minnesota audience in Minneapolis that the anti-tax mantra threatens to undo the state and nation. He said tax cuts have contributed to the national debt and made Minnesota lawmakers turn to budget-balancing "gimmicks" such as borrowing from schools and future tobacco settlement payments.
"This unwillingness to pay taxes, and seeing it as a threat to our freedom and our liberty and our way of life, to me, it's just -- it's going to be the death of this country if it's not corrected," Dayton said.
Dayton, who won't face voters until 2014, said he will release a broader plan to overhaul Minnesota's tax system in December, after the election, so it doesn't get "mired" in election politics. Dayton said his aim is a fairer tax system.
Republican House Taxes Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, said Dayton should release the proposal now so voters know what's coming as they make their choices in November. All 201 legislative seats are on the ballot. Dayton is asking voters to give him Democratic majorities after Republicans blocked his agenda on taxes and spending.
"The death of this country is going to be government spending more than what they bring in," Davids said.
Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge said Dayton's comments "couldn't be more wrong or more bizarre."
"In fact, our country, and countries throughout history, have prospered most when we allow more freedom and less government overreach into the lives of the people," Shortridge said in a statement.
Dayton said the proposal he abandoned last year to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of earners would have brought in $1.8 billion in the current budget period, eliminating the need to borrow money from the schools and tobacco payments.
The governor also had sharp words for Republican legislators who forced him to drop that plan during an impasse last year that led to a 20-day government shutdown.
"They're people who know nothing about government and they care even less," Dayton said.
Davids called the comments "outrageously offensive."
"I care very deeply about the people of this state. I just happen to believe that they should be able to keep more of their money and give less to government," he said.
Dayton said he plans to meet with businesses in various industries to hear what they need from the sta