Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, Senate leaders at least starting out on bipartisan note at the Capitol

A peace offering? From left, Sen. Geoff Michel and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch presented a big jar of M&M's today to  Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
A peace offering? From left, Sen. Geoff Michel and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch presented a big jar of M&M’s today to Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon.

Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and the lieutenant governor-elect, Yvonne Prettner Solon, met with two key Republican senators in a half-hour Capitol session that gave waiting reporters plenty to talk about.

While the DFLers met with Amy Koch, the new Senate majority leader, and Geoff Michel, who will head the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee, reporters tried to determine some “over-under” numbers.

Specifically, how many times the state’s new political leaders would use terms that would fit under the heading of “working together” and how many times they would use terms reflecting “respectful differences.”  

The quick consensus: 13.

Then, a problem arose among the Capitol scribes.

“What’s an over-under number?” one of the reporters asked.

It was explained that it’s a betting term. In this case, you could bet on whether the leaders would mention cooperative phrases more or fewer than 13 times — and whether they would talk about their differences more or fewer than 13 times.

As it turned out, the reporters guessed low on one and high on the other.

Getting along, at least for now
The leaders used cooperative phrases far more than 13 times. Every time any one of them spoke, there were familiar get-along words.

“Common ground,” said Koch.

“Common ground,” said Dayton.

“Some things are bipartisan,” said Michel.

“It’s great to be back with these two great senators,” said Prettner Solon, currently a senator, of her colleagues.

Meantime, phrases regarding areas of differences were few and far between — certainly far fewer than 13.

But, as it turned out, the Republicans, Koch and Michel, had raised havoc with the reporters’ contest at the start of their meeting with Dayton. They’d opened up their meeting by giving Dayton a large jar of M&M’s (the peanut variety).

Dayton noted that the Republicans must have done their research: “They understand my culinary preferences.”

It was Michel who made the least bold statement out of this first meeting among the new leaders.

“One bold prediction,” he said, without laughing. “I believe this governor and this Senate leader will get along better than their predecessors.”

Who wouldn’t?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller disliked each other with great intensity, though publicly they always grimaced and said how they  worked together just fine.

Between the leaders’ statements, there probably was news out of this first meeting.

The most interesting may have been the role Prettner Solon will play in the next four years.

Of course, any lieutenant governor would play a bigger role in government than Carol Molnau did once she was booted out of her job as commissioner of Department of Transportation after the collapse of the I-35W bridge.

And, of course, all new governors say that their lieutenant governors will be important in their administrations.

Prettner Solon knows the players
But Prettner Solon just might be a real factor. For starters, she has been a senator, so she knows the players better than her boss does.

Secondly, one of the big issues for both Dayton and Republican leaders will be whacking the numbers of regulations that business leaders complain have made starting or growing businesses in Minnesota difficult.

One of Prettner Solon’s tasks is to work on streamlining regulations, which also is a big mission among Republicans. Additionally, both Dayton and the Republicans want to speed up agencies in moving permits through the process.

Both Dayton and the Republican leaders talked of how they share the jobs, jobs, jobs mission, although they likely won’t agree on how to create those jobs.

Dayton obviously believes that government can act as a job growth stimulant. He said he’d even like to move bonding to the odd-numbered legislative years, meaning he hopes for another big bonding bill this session.

He noted that bonding money quickly ends up in the hands of the private sector. It is, after all, private-sector companies that build the buildings and repair the bridges.

The Republican leaders didn’t seem quite so enthusiastic about the bonding approach to economic growth.

Koch sort of dismissed it by saying the Senate “will consider all ideas.”

In these days of Dome deflation, the fate of the Vikings had to be discussed.

The leaders said they talked about the Vikings and their perceived stadium needs for about a minute and a half in their meeting. More time than that was spent on the subject with reporters.

Already, one Republican senator, Julie Rosen of Fairmont, has promised to unveil some sort of a stadium bill in the upcoming session.

And though Dayton insisted, as he did throughout the campaign, that no general fund money could be used for the Vikings, he is supportive of some sort of a funding mechanism.

He talked of how building a stadium would put as many as 8,000 people to work, of how those would be jobs for the hard-hit construction industry, of how the stadium could have many positive economic affects.

Do all those holes in the roof of the Dome and the national perception they’ve created make stadium building more “urgent”?

Dayton said he’d visited the Dome after it was deflated Sunday.

“A stark picture,” he said.

But urgent?

Dayton wouldn’t buy that word, but he came close.

The Dome’s demise “underscores the imperative” of resolving the issue.

Michel used a catchy phrase that will surely please those who don’t want a public nickel spent for the Vikings.

“The photo on You-Tube of the deflated Dome is dramatic, but no more dramatic than our deflated economy,” he said.

But then he tossed a little bone to football fans: “We love our Vikings, but first things first.”

Dayton, who seems to attempt to answer questions honestly, probably called it when he predicted that any stadium resolutions will probably be delayed to the end of session.

As for the budget issues and the huge differences between Dayton and the Republican Legislature on how to resolve the hole in the budget?

“We didn’t talk much about taxes,” said Koch, acknowledging that they have differences based on “principles.”

This meeting, though, “was about common ground,” she said.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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