New Gov. Dayton calls on Minnesotans to work together
ST. PAUL -- Mark Dayton became Minnesota's 40th governor early this afternoon, immediately urging Minnesotans to work together to solve state problems like a massive budget deficit.
His 10-minute inaugural speech started with thanking supporters and pledging to work for those who voted for him, and those who did not, but most of it centered on his "working together" theme.
"Previous generations of Minnesotans and other Americans faced graver danger, under worse conditions, with fewer resources than we do today," Dayton said. "They summoned their collective knowledge, courage and resolve. They persevered. And they prevailed. By working together."
Dayton, the first Democratic governor in two decades, acknowledged that he faces is a projected $6.2 billion budget deficit, which Dayton and a Republican-controlled Legislature must solve.
His main job will be bringing more jobs to the state, he said, with the next two priorities being balancing the state budget fairly and improving government services.
The Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul was packed as Chief Justice Lorie Gildea administered the oath of office to Dayton, who at 63 is the oldest Minnesotan to become governor.
Also sworn in were Lt. Gov.-elect Yvonne Prettner Solon and returning state officials Attorney General Lori Swanson, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
As expected, Dayton did not offer any new solutions to the budget problem, saving that for his Feb. 15 budget plan.
Dayton wants to raise taxes on the rich to help balance the budget, while Republicans vigorously oppose that idea. Both sides say they know programs need to be cut.
"My proposed budget will be reasonable, balanced and painful, because I see no easy alternative," Dayton admitted.
To Republicans, Dayton said that he would welcome their budget ideas.
"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 destroy our schools, hospitals and public safety, please send me your bill so I can sign it immediately," he said.
Former Gov. Wendell Anderson, a Democrat, said Dayton has an advantage because he is taking office at a time when Minnesotans know there already is a budget problem. That means Dayton will not be blamed, Anderson said.
Anderson, who was sworn in 40 years ago in a more modest ceremony than Dayton's, said the new governor brings with him "the most impressive resume" of any Minnesota chief executive.
The ex-governor said he hopes legislative Republicans "wake up" and accept a modest tax income tax increase to help fund their schools and local governments.
An announcement before the swearing-in ceremony illustrated Dayton's efforts to work with legislative Republicans. He delayed until Wednesday signing a document to enroll Minnesota in a new federal Medicaid health program for the poor because Republican oppose the action.
Dayton Chief of Staff Tina Smith said the change came because of a personal request by House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, so it does not happen when the GOP takes over legislative control.
"Gov. Dayton is proud to make this order one of his first actions in office, providing health care to tens of thousands of Minnesotans and retaining health care jobs in our state," Smith said.
All 201 state legislators are to be sworn in at noon Tuesday, giving Republicans legislative control for the first time in four decades.
But today belongs to Dayton. Former Vice President Walter Mondale hosted his inaugural program, with a military band and a youth choir providing music. McKaia Ryberg of Buffalo Lake sang the national anthem.
In his speech, Dayton asked every business to adopt a school to provide financial and other support. He also urged Minnesotans to volunteer to help a school, hospital or social service agency as he did at a St. Paul school Monday morning.
But most of his speech dealt with getting more Minnesotans to work. He said wars and economic conditions have forced 208,000 people to lose jobs.
"A state which used to lead most others in economic growth has fallen toward the bottom," he said, with exiting Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty sitting in front of him two rows back. Pawlenty, who after serving eight years, starts a book tour this month and may announce this spring that he is running for president.
Former Gov. Arne Carlson could not attend Dayton's event because of a family commitment and ex-Gov. Jesse Ventura did not attend. Anderson and former Gov. Al Quie did attend.
After the inaugural, Dayton and other state officials were available at the state Capitol for a public open house. A Saturday ball wraps up the modest inaugural activities.
Dayton moves into the official governor's residence before Saturday's ball.
Dayton gained the governor's job by defeating two well-known Democrats in August's primary election, after not seeking his party's endorsement, and then beating Republican Tom Emmer and Tom Horner of the Independence Party in November's general election. However, it took until Dec. 8 for Emmer to concede because of the closeness of the race and a statewide recount of all 2.1 million ballots cast.
Before the inaugural, Dayton frequently praised Emmer for how he handled the campaign and his concession.
Dayton, who spent nearly two years running for governor, is one of the best-known Minnesotans to become governor. He has been in the public eye most of his life, beginning as a youngster who was heir to the Dayton Department Store fortune.
While his family long ago sold the chain, which beget Target, Dayton has been a public figure in his own right for nearly 30 years. His political background includes being state auditor, serving as a Gov. Rudy Perpich commissioner twice and being U.S. senator for six years beginning 10 years ago.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.