ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mark Dayton, who became Minnesota’s first Democratic governor in two decades Monday, pressed Republican lawmakers to avoid “paralyzing gridlock” as they jointly confront a monumental budget challenge with starkly different ideas for tackling it.

Dayton used his inaugural address to demand that he and his governing peers “summon our best, to be our best and to do our best.”

“The stakes now are high,” Dayton told the hundreds of people who filled the Landmark Center auditorium in downtown St. Paul. “This coming decade will determine whether we suffer the historical declines of previous superpowers, or write a new chapter for future historians. If anyone can do it, we can and we must.”

To Minnesotans at large, he issued a call to volunteer service. To opponents of his campaign pledge to raise income taxes on the wealthy, Dayton said it is incumbent on them to fashion an alternative that doesn’t shift the burden to locally imposed property taxes.

“If you can do so without destroying our schools, hospitals and public safety, please send me your bill so I can sign it immediately,” Dayton said. “Otherwise, let’s begin tomorrow, and in May conclude this challenging, complicated and essential process by working together.”

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On Tuesday, Republicans will grab control of both legislative chambers for the first time since 1971.

Dayton’s swearing-in broke what had become the third-longest Democratic drought for a governorship in any state.

Connecticut, which like Minnesota had gone without a Democrat in the role since 1991, also elected one in November. The states with longer Democratic outages are South Dakota and Utah.

Dayton survived a close election that required a recount to become the state’s 40th governor. Democrats now hold all of Minnesota’s state and federal statewide office — the first GOP shutout since 1978.

The inaugural drew the elite of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, including the state’s only living former Democratic governor, Wendell Anderson; former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken; Reps. Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz; state lawmakers, former officeholders and a clutch of union leaders.

The mood was celebratory after so many years without a Democrat in the governor’s office.

“It restores my faith in the power of prayer,” Anderson said. “I’m very happy about it.”

Departing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty watched from the second row, sitting near Anderson and former Gov. Al Quie, a Republican. Pawlenty didn’t seek a third term and has instead been positioning himself for a possible run for president.

Dayton was set to move into the governor’s office in a corner of the state Capitol after taking the oath. Phones, e-mail addresses and the website for his administration went live at noon.

Dayton assumed power about a dozen years after first seeking the top job in an unsuccessful bid. The Democrat has been an established figure in Minnesota politics for more than three decades, serving previously as an economic development commissioner, state auditor and, most recently, a U.S. senator.

At 63, he will be Minnesota’s oldest rookie governor.

Dayton started his big day by handing out milk and fruit juice to students at an elementary school who were returning from their winter break. He said he wanted to demonstrate his call for volunteerism.

In his speech, he urged businesses to adopt a school and help improve it. He said all people should volunteer somewhere part of one day each month as he intends to do while governor.

“A better Minnesota for all of us depends on all of us,” Dayton said.

He takes over a state projected to run a $6.2 billion budget deficit during his first two years. Dayton ran on pro-tax platform, but Republicans steering the Legislature say they won’t approve state tax hikes.

Despite their deep philosophical differences, Dayton has stayed upbeat about being able to work together. He spent his abbreviated transition period — GOP nominee Tom Emmer didn’t concede until Dec. 8 — meeting with Republicans on their turf.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, deferred to Dayton on his first day, saying that the new GOP majorities would wait for his budget proposal and an updated economic forecast in late February before presenting their own budget plan.

Koch added, however, that she is confident the state’s financial troubles can be solved without raising taxes.

“We’re committed to living within our means,” she said. “We believe absolutely we can do that.”

Aside from the budget problems, Dayton inherits a decade-old debate over a new home for the Minnesota Vikings. But unlike past governors, Dayton won’t be able to wait it out. The team’s Metrodome lease expires after next season, raising fears the 50-year-old franchise could relocate. Last month, the Dome’s inflatable roof collapsed under the weight of snow, forcing the Vikings to play home games in Detroit and at the University of Minnesota’s outdoor stadium.

Dayton has had a hard time escaping questions about the team’s situation.

It even came up while he served breakfast at Wellstone Elementary. Most kids breezed by Dayton with a simple smile or hello, but one boy used his brief time with the new leader to lobby for his beloved football team.

“How about the Vikings getting a new stadium?” the youngster told Dayton.

“That’s one vote for a new stadium,” Dayton said to no one in particular.

Dayton has said he hopes to strike a stadium deal but hasn’t said what type of financing package he’d accept.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler Reports

WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler Reports

Comments (26)
  1. truth hurts says:

    200 votes is close, not 8ooo…………lil tony sutton & emmer couldnt manufacture enough extra votes to make it close

    1. Cache says:

      Democruds have always been better at voter fraud!

  2. Kurt says:

    I expect the worst senator to be the next worst govenor

  3. gina says:

    Our last governor allowed sex offenders to get less jail time. All he did was wasted his time doing nothing for Minnesota. I have a lot more faith in mark Dayton.

  4. Michael Loos says:

    I have no faith in any politician if you do your an idoit. Have faith in our country and the founding principals and ideals we will go farther!

  5. tiredandretired says:

    Minnesotans should be elated to finally have a governor that is more interested is doing well for the state, than in promoting himself as a presidential candidate.

  6. Cache says:

    Minnesotans don’t seem to learn any lessons from this political Hack… he has not changed his Wacko dipso spots…He will make joke of the governor office he did as a lame senator…Is then a mark lower than ‘F’ …possibly an ‘F’ Minus…he do it!

    1. Ignorance must be bliss says:

      Cache
      Maybe you should learn how to speak and spell correctly before you can make any statements of someone’s intellectual powers. To call someone an idiot and then use a statement like “He will make joke of the governor office he did as a lame senator” is just sad. Have to love that even idiots have the right to call someone else an idiot.

  7. Kirk Besse says:

    Minnesotans are very lucky to have Governor Dayton. He will work hard to prevent the state from sliding into that right wing abyss where the state would be for the few, and the very few.

    1. Cache says:

      Not only are you clueless but you and others of your ilk live in La La Land. This state is sliding into a lawless Welfare and illegal sanctuary rat hole the likes of Detroit. Soon there will be not taxpayers to pay for your “Gimmee da Freebies” crowd…there will be no job providers…get a brain!

    2. robb says:

      what a sad sad day for minnesota, Gov Goofy is in control. He will duck and run and hide at the first sign of a threat, Should provide some good material for the Jay Leno show as he turns minnesota into the laughing stock of the nation

  8. Thomas Keim says:

    get rid of the unions in the government and things will get a lot better the unions are ruining the country

  9. Dave says:

    Let the $pending begin!

  10. Patrick Lilja says:

    I don’t think either one of these candidates are that great, but Dayton will do a lot better for Minnesota than Emmer would have.

  11. Victim Du Jour says:

    A $10/hr Janitor pays more taxes, so a $20/hr government Union Janitor can get an unfunded pension.

  12. Rich says:

    Filthy rich Gov. Dayton should waive all four years of his salary.

  13. Len says:

    Kurt, you are spot on. Dayton will be just as worthless as governor as he was as a senator. What a Bozo!

  14. richard says:

    As expected….republicans are sore loser. Sit down, shut up and allow the new Gov. to do something for the working people of the state.

  15. Ignorance must be bliss says:

    I love how people judge how well someone is going to do the day that they take office. How about all of you that claim you know what is going to happen just shut up for a couple moments (or at least long enough to see what is going to happen) and not just jump to a conclusion. By the way, for all of you that are going to say that Dayton is not going to do anything in office I would like to point out the fact that just like all other politics, if the GOP wants to block everything that he would like to do they can do this for the most part. Just like Jessie, all you GOPers are going to say he did nothing when it was your own people that stopped him from doing anything. I look forward to your uneducated (and just plain ridiculous) comments on how much of a tree hugging, hippie, liberal agenda pushing idiot I am. Awwwww, did I just take the fun out of it for you?

  16. Bob says:

    We need a racino now , the Indian tribes are laughing at us! Racino now and let’s start funding a stadium!give some to roads and schools!

  17. JAN says:

    You people should have completed 5th grade then you might know how to get a job and work. I’m tired of working for the rich and greedy and the ones that have to much time on their hands complaining about the people who did there work. I’m a proud veteran and I did my duty to protect your lazy body so get a life.

  18. Gloria says:

    Mark Dayton is now governor, but the Republicans have won. They have succeeded in bringing our country and our great state to the brink of economic disaster. Why are so many middle-class people so resentful of people like union workers? They’re not the ones we should be angry with. We should be angry with the devious politicians who started two unnecessary wars and gave large tax cuts to the very wealthy. Wake up! Stop drinking the GOP kool-aid.

  19. JAN says:

    Thanks Gloria you hit the nail on the head. I’m a proud to be union myself and retired. Mark is trying to help the working people and protect us.

  20. Bob says:

    The wealthy create jobs gloria , we have to many people relying on the government.

  21. Gloria says:

    If the wealthy create jobs, then where are the jobs? The rich have been getting richer and richer while the rest of the country watches jobs go overseas. We’ve had nearly a decade now of tax cuts for the wealthy, and the unemployment rate has risen. Bob, you are repeating GOP propaganda.