Posted at: 12/10/2012 10:31 PM
Updated at: 12/10/2012 10:56 PM
By: Alan Hoglund
Minnesota Republicans are questioning how much of a role they'll play in the next legislative session.
Top leaders discussed work ahead in a forum in St. Paul Monday, where Republicans said the DFL could enact an agenda without their help.
DFL'ers have complete control for the first time in more than two decades, and they say they'll collaborate with Republicans.
During a conversation heavily focused on the expected budget deficit, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said "we want to be part of the solution. But we're also keenly aware that they don't need us to do what they want to do."
The first task on the legislature's checklist, is solving a $1.1 bil deficit. Governor Mark Dayton said the upcoming budget won't be solved like the last. Money was borrowed from schools and now needs to be paid back. "I will take it upon myself and insist to others there be no one-time shifts or borrowing or gimmicks."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk expects cuts to the state's Health and Human Services budget could help solve the deficit. Meanwhile, Hann said what gets the state into trouble in the first place is that spending increases aren't balanced with new revenues and economic growth.
Freshman lawmakers heading to St. Paul will arrive with their own wants, and Senate Minority Leader David Hann said "it's very, very easy for legislators to think about all the things we can spend money and they start proposing things."
Bakk said new lawmakers may have to put those wants on hold. "They soon will learn that there is going to be very little money to do anything new."
The session won't focus exclusively on state finances. Both parties admit the gay marriage debate is far from over. According to House Speaker Paul Thissen, "people don't want to stop discussion on that cold. They don't want to lock into our state constitution one particular definition of marriage, I think the conversation will continue to evolve."
Thissen expects to see legislation introduced in 2013.
Top lawmakers also highlighted job creation as a top priority. Bakk mentioned two companies are interested in investing large sums of money in the state. He didn't name names, but said "they'll set a new economic precedent for different kind of development than the state has done in the past. But there are significant investments that these private employers are going to make in our state."
The next legislative session convenes January 8.