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GOP lawmakers hope DFL plays nice as majority party

WILLMAR -- Local GOP lawmakers say they are concerned that DFLers -- who now control the House and Senate and are headed by a Democratic governor -- will pass legislation without regard to the wishes or input of Republican lawmakers.

"The DFL will be able to do whatever they want and we can't stop them," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City.

"It's a game changer," said Rep. Paul And-erson, R-Starbuck.

Both men won re-election last week when many of their fellow Republican legislators, including two from Willmar, lost.

"I hope they don't undo some of the good things we've done in the last two years," said Anderson, listing off potential bills he fears that Democratic-Farmer-La-bor lawmakers could approve, like taxing the rich, ending the wolf hunt and removing provisions that streamlined the business permitting process.

"It's up to them to focus on whatever topics they choose," said Anderson. "They'll have the power."

But local DFL legislators say they have no intentions of taking the state on a ride to the political left.

Instead, they say they want to end the gridlock and bickering that was common during the past two years when the Republican Party was in control of the House and Senate, and take middle-of-the-road action that has bipartisan support.

Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, who defeated Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, to represent District 17, said the message he got from the election was that Minnesotans want legislators to "be reasonable and use a reasonable approach."

Koenen said when Republicans took control of the House and Senate in 2010, they took the state "way to the right extreme."

He acknowledges some Democrats are saying "now's our chance" to swing the state to the far left.

But Koenen said that will be met by other DFL'ers who'll say "whoa, here" and the Legislature will "move forward with an even hand and not get too carried away."

Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, agrees.

"We want to work together," said Falk, adding that the DFL message of "progress over gridlock" will help bring resolution to issues that are important to Minnesotans, which he identified as growing the economy, improving infrastructure, providing affordable health care and paying back the school funding shift.

Falk and Koenen said financial issues -- not social issues -- will be the top priority in 2013.

Falk said it is unusual for one party to have control of all three branches, which does provide the DFL with unique opportunities.

"But Minnesotans truly expect us to do good for the state," Falk said. "We're all in this together."

All four legislators acknowledge there are serious problems to address, including fixing an anticipated deficit, approving a new budget and bonding bill and paying back the remaining $2.4 billion the state borrowed from school funding, but they said there are fundamental differences on the best way to deal with the issues.

Urdahl's message to the Democrats is, "Work with us. Don't try to steamroller us."

Even though he's once again in the minority party, Urdahl said he has worked well with Democratic lawmakers in the past and is "not going to throw up my hands and say, 'ah, nothing can be done.'"

Anderson said Republican legislators will "reach out and offer to help the other side but the reality is they don't need our help" because DFL'ers have the votes they need to pass legislation.

The only exception is the bonding bill. It takes 81 votes in the House to approve the bonding bill and Democrats have 73 members. That could give Republicans some "leverage," said Urdahl.

Anderson said cooperation will be the only way for Republicans to win over enough votes to get their own projects approved.

"We have to work together in a better fashion to get things done. People are tired of seeing the gridlock," said Anderson, adding that if everyone "gives a little" and "comes together in the middle," work can be accomplished.

After having a turn in the majority party, Anderson has some advice to the DFL: "Don't try to do too much too fast. Don't try to overreach. Don't work on social issues right away."

When asked if Republican legislators followed that advice, Anderson wouldn't give a yes or no answer but said, "The election results show some people thought maybe we didn't."

He said the Democrats should learn from that.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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