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GOP Calls Themselves Mainstream; Dayton Says Extreme

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — For the second day in a row, Gov. Mark Dayton is ramping up his anti-Republican rhetoric, blaming a small group of conservative freshmen lawmakers for the budget stalemate.

But the new GOP lawmakers say they’re MAINstream, not EXtreme.

One of those GOP lawmakers is Dave Thompson, a first-term state senator from Lakeville.

On his Capitol office door, he’s posted a sign that reads “Not a Penny More.”

“It means no budget spending more than $34 billion. I thought I’d stick it on my door,” said Thompson.

He is among a rambunctious crew of freshmen Republican legislators pulling Minnesota’s budget hard to the right.

The kind Dayton called “radicals” preventing their own GOP leaders from compromising on the budget.

“They’re encumbered by a more radical, extreme right wing caucus within their caucus on both the House and the Senate side,” said the DFL governor.

But they are hardly fearsome freshmen intent on bringing down the government.

They are carpenters, real estate agents and a mother of a newborn baby girl. They also don’t appreciate the governor’s comments.

“The governor has attacked elected leaders and when he does that, he attacks all of us,” said Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo. “Because we are not different than anybody else. We’re average Minnesotans.”

Republicans invited Dayton to their caucus last week and described him as cordial and respectful in their private meeting — but not so in his public comments.

The first-termers see themselves as a fresh set of eyes on a deeply troubled state budget.

“I kind of feel like we’re auditors that just arrived at the doorsteps of Denny Hecker, Tom Petters and Bernie Madoff,” said Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing. “We just can’t believe what’s going on.”

Dayton, who leaves Thursday on a statewide media blitz to promote his tax hike budget plan, said this GOP breed doesn’t know much about government and doesn’t care to learn.

“The government, despite some opinions to the contrary, makes an essential difference in so many people’s lives for the better,” said Dayton.

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