Moments after taking office, Governor Mark Dayton declared “Let’s get Minnesota moving again by working together.” The first Democrat to become governor in decades sounded a bipartisan tone, but also issued a veiled challenge to Republicans who take over the legislature tomorrow: “To those who sincerely believe the state budget can be balanced with no tax increase – including no forced property tax increase – I say, if you can do so without destroying our schools, hospitals, and public safety, please send me your bill, so I can sign it immediately.” Dayton said his solution to a $6.2 billion budget shortfall “will be reasonable, balanced – and painful – because I see no easy alternative.”
Many Minnesota dignitaries were on hand. Vice President Walter Mondale served as master of ceremonies and said Dayton will be a statesman who “will not duck responsibility, he welcomes it.” Gov. Wendell Anderson said he thought he would live to see another DFL governor but he’s concerned about the potential expansion of gambling by the state. Anderson added that he thinks the state does need new revenue. Governors Al Quie and Tim Pawlenty were also on hand as were Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.
One of the most popular people gathered in the audience at St. Paul’s Landmark Center was former Vikings coach Bud Grant. Grant said it’s not up to Dayton but the legislature to come up with a Vikings stadium proposal. He said “if you build it they will come” but added if you don’t build it, they will leave. The stadium was not among the issues Dayton outlined as his top three priorities which include bringing more jobs to Minnesota, balancing the budget fairly and improving government services.