Pledges aside, partisan showdowns loom at Capitolby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Despite public pledges today of cooperation in the coming 2011 session, DFL Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and the new Republican leaders of the Legislature appear to be headed toward some unavoidable showdowns on issues ranging from taxes to energy policy.
Most of the big disagreements won't play out until later in the session, but a few could force Dayton to make early use of his veto stamp.
Dayton says he'll take office on Monday with a genuine desire to work cooperatively with the Republicans who now control the Minnesota House and Senate.
The two sides have sharply different views on many issues. Dayton wants to erase part of a projected $6.2 billion state budget deficit through an income tax increase on top earners, while Republicans strongly oppose any new taxes.
Dayton also wants a large bonding bill to help create construction jobs around the state.
Republicans want job creation focused on the private sector. Still, Dayton says he's optimistic about the negotiations ahead.
"The whole legislative session is five months of a process in which all those different ideas and perspectives get thrown into the political and policy hopper and come out at the end with the mosaic that best serves the shared and diverse interests of all the people of Minnesota," he said.
But there are also some other issues that could come to a head much earlier in the session.
Republicans say they want to repeal the state's moratorium on new nuclear power plants. Dayton firmly opposes such a move.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch of Buffalo said the measure is aimed at helping meet the state's energy needs, not provoking the new governor.
"Energy costs have been going up. Rates have been going up, and that's bad for Minnesota consumers," Koch said. "But it's also bad for Minnesota businesses, who are large consumers of energy."
Republicans are also planning quick action on an education policy bill that would open up the teaching profession through an alternative licensing system.
The statewide teachers union Education Minnesota opposed a similar effort last year, and the union backed Dayton's campaign for governor.
GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean of Dellwood says the 33 newly-elected Republican representatives are committed to making changes in education.
"They see it as a moral issue that will be focused on the needs of kids, not on the needs of adults," he said. "They'll be pushing very hard on us to get get forward on reform."
The education measure and the nuclear moratorium repeal could both prompt vetoes, but Dayton says he won't prejudge any legislation before it comes forward.
However, he cautioned legislators not to rush through any bills -- without the input of his office -- just to make a political statement.