As others see it: State leaders face change
This new year of 2013 brings a major shift at the Minnesota Legislature. In November, voters swept the Democrats back into the majority in both the House and Senate. Combined with Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton, there is no question as to who is in charge in this Legislature.
However, Democrats go into the session with the reminder that their November success lies in part due to the voters' rejection of the Republicans' continuing partisan bickering and political gridlock under the GOP majority in the last Legislature.
DFL legislators will need to be cautious and smart. They should find ways to work with Republicans and remember the voters are the ultimate judge at the next election in 2014.
A changed relationship has also occurred between the Democrat legislative leaders and Dayton. Both will have to learn how to work with each other again. Dayton must remember that he needs his fellow Democrats -- Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Paul Thissen -- as they will decide what gets done and what doesn't in the 2013 Legislature.
As Dayton and the Legislature review their various wish lists for 2013, they face a $1.1 billion projected budget deficit plus owing another $1.1 billion to public schools. Solving this deficit as well as trying to revamp the state tax system will be no easy task.
The governor appears to be reaching out to business leaders around the state, seeking their input and guidance. And the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders are glad to have a voice in the debate. This is a good first step, but the Legislature should not ignore or forget the concerns of business, which drives the state's economy. ....
Republicans will need to keep a watchful eye on the Democrat leadership, offer constructive alternatives based on their conservative values and strive to improve their image for the 2014 races for the House. Only time will tell how the legislators and Dayton fit into their new roles in 2013.