In his end-of-session assessment Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton’s language was measured, but his message was harsh for the Republican legislative majorities.
He called on Minnesotans to give DFLers the next two years at the Capitol to prove what they could do with a unified front.
“Give us a chance,” he said. “Let’s see what, by contrast, government that’s committed to the needs of Minnesota and all the people of Minnesota can accomplish.”
Dayton offered his reflections on the session shortly after signing a $500 million bonding bill.
The bonding package and the Vikings stadium bill “salvaged” the session for Minnesotans, the governor said.
Dayton said he wasn’t pleased with the size of the bonding bill, hoping for something closer to $775 million.
He was critical, too, of the session overall but said his two big wins overshadowed the many little problems that had arisen since January.
“I feel a little bit like the golfer who has 16 terrible holes and then gets a birdie and then gets an eagle,” he said.
“You walk off and you feel, ‘Wow, I’m feeling pretty good about this round and then you add up the score and you realize,‘This wasn’t very good after all.’ So that’s the way I look at the session.”
Republicans are watching Dayton to see what he’ll do with one of their top priorities this session: a second try at a tax bill that would offer relief to business property taxes. The governor said he hasn’t yet received the bill but that he would review it over the weekend.
Still, its chances don’t look good.
“They beat this drum, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re going into the tank … and therefore we need to give the businesses all this tax relief,” he said.
“It’s got to be, ‘What are you going to do for business and everybody else in Minnesota?”
Dayton also responded to criticisms from House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who said the $1 billion Vikings stadium proposal dominated the session while there were many other important issues to be addressed.
“He’s entitled certainly to his own view,” the governor said of Zellers, who didn’t support the stadium bill that passed Thursday. “Everybody had their own personal involvement in it, and it affected them each individually.”
Dayton credited the Democrats in the Legislature for acting as the “majority party” on the stadium vote because DFLers put up the majority of votes in both the House and Senate.
He also criticized the “arch-conservative” Republicans for working against stadium and bonding bills, calling jobs his No. 1 priority for the session.
“There’s a very narrow ideological view, and it’s myopic, and anything that departs from it even the slightest degree is just out of bounds, it’s off the planet, and so there’s not much room there to work with,” he said.
But there was just enough time for a little love.
The governor praised Iron Range DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina, who announced Friday that he was leaving the Legislature after 26 years of service.
“I was shocked, stunned,” Dayton said. “He’s been a tremendous legislator. He’s been a very good friend. You know where Tom is on everything, and he’s got the strength of his convictions, and he’s just a terrific person.”