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South Washington County lawmakers say state of the state is improving

A serious Mark Dayton Wednesday night delivers his second State of the State speech. The Democratic governor took a softer tone than in recent weeks, but indirectly criticized Republicans. Photo by Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Legislators generally agreed with Gov. Mark Dayton that jobs are a key priority this year, although some hoped to hear more specific policy ideas from him during his Wednesday night State of the State speech.

"He talked a lot about job creation, and that is truly the reason ... all legislators are here," Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, said.

Many lawmakers agreed with Dayton that while there still is work to be done, the state is headed in the right direction.

"We're in a state of recovery," Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said.

As Dayton said in his speech, unemployment numbers are starting to drop. People are spending a little more. Within the past year, the signs of an improving economy are starting to become evident, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said.

"We are starting to see a little inkling that the economy is moving forward," he said, adding, "we need to make sure to help and not hinder that."

Last year's budget deal left the state with problems, Sieben said. Repaying schools after a funding shift that was part of the budget deal now is critical, she said.

The state is making progress on environmental issues, said McNamara, who chairs the House environment committee. For example, Minnesota recently took over gray wolf management from the federal government, a shift he called "a success story."

But the area still struggles with invasive aquatic species and Asian carp, among other environmental issues, he said.

Danielle Nordine reports for the Bulletin and other Forum Communications Co. newspapers.