Newly re-elected Gov. Mark Dayton didn’t so much extend an olive branch as wave it in the general direction of the Republican leadership that takes control of the Minnesota House in January.
At a news conference Wednesday, Dayton was refreshed, relaxed, and pointed about how he intends to work with the Republicans who will have an 11-seat house majority.
“I’m going to be as conciliatory as I can be and I’m just pointing to the past,” he said, referring to the government shutdown in 2011, the last time Republicans had control of the legislature. “I think it’s a real question mark of whether they are willing to assume the mantle of leadership.”
On tax increases and MNsure — the two centerpiece issues of the Republican campaign against him — Dayton indicated there was room for discussion, with strings attached.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said when asked about the Republican campaign theme of repealing MNsure. “I hope the Republicans … who’ve just been throwing rocks at it the past year will decide to step in and offer constructive ways to improve it.”
As for tax cuts — specifically the high-income tax increase that Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson wanted to roll back — Dayton had a counter-offer.
“If you want to cut taxes or not raises taxes then you’ve got to deal with other side of the financial ledger. Where are you going to cut?” he said. “I think that will be the acid test.”
Lt. Governor-elect Tina Smith offered a more nuanced approach to leading in a divided government. “We need to figure out how to govern with the legislature that is there and we will put all our energy into doing that,” she said, as Dayton offered her the podium just two minutes into the news conference.
Dayton made it clear that Smith, his former chief of staff, would be a prominent figure in the administration. At the news conference, Smith handled reporters’ questions directly and offered second opinions without the customary deference toward her boss.
But it was Dayton in control, at least for an hour. “I’m not going to give up everything I believe in,” he said in response to multiple questions about a remade Republican House. “I issue a friendly challenge to the Republican majority in the House and the leadership there to be more accommodating than they were a couple of years ago.”
“I told my staff it’s going to be Dayton unbound.”