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Cooperation May Be Harder To Find At State Capitol

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The Minnesota Legislature is less than a month away from convening for the 2013 session. And for the first time in 22 years, Democrats have complete control of Minnesota government after voters tossed out Republicans.

But GOP lawmakers aren’t necessarily going quietly.

Monday marked an unusual joint appearance by the new majority Democrats and Republicans who are suddenly in the minority.

There are many priorities for 2013, but working together may not be among them. The high level sit-down was outwardly cordial, but political strains are already beginning to show.

Governor Mark Dayton complaining of a statewide GOP campaign linking him to tax-hike proposals he hasn’t said he’ll support.

“I just hope we can deal with the facts in this whole debate. You know, we can disagree on what we should do about them, but I hope we can agree on the facts,” Dayton said.

Dayton says he will propose sweeping tax reform, which will likely include an income tax hike on the top two percent of wealthy Minnesotans.

This was a political opening for Republicans, who are already on the attack to head it off. Senate Minority Leader David Hann wants Democrats to call “tax reform” what it really is in the minds of the GOP.

“If tax reform is just a way of saying “let’s increase tax rates on the wealthy,” they’re going to find less, I think, assistance from Republicans to do that,” Hann said.

Senator Hann is considering a run against Governor Dayton in 2014, which could complicate the 2013 legislature. “Hann for Governor” campaign literature was distributed at a weekend GOP event.

New Democratic House Speaker Paul Thissen said Republicans are already engaging in “dishonest” and “ideological” politics.

“The Republicans take the approach that a tax is a tax is a tax is a tax – and that’s simply not the case,” Thissen said. “Raising property taxes, as the Republicans did over the last two years, raises taxes on middle class Minnesotans. That is a very different impact on our economy than raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans.”

Both new Republican leaders said Monday that the Democrats don’t need their votes to pass any bill. This is one more signal the GOP may sit back and let Democrats own every big policy coming out of the legislative session – for good or ill.

Democratic leaders say they expect to discuss and debate gay marriage, but won’t pass a bill legalizing it in 2013.

Three states legalized it last month, and Minnesota voters rejected an attempt to ban gay marriage in the constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue next year.

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