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Published December 12 2012

Forum editorial: Minnesota tosses ball to the DFL

The abrupt flip on Nov. 6 of the Minnesota Legislature from Republican to Democratic control affords Democrats a rare opportunity to demonstrate they can be fiscally responsible. Voters, who likely were suffering from buyers’ remorse after the Republican legislative sweep in 2010, seem to be saying that, for now, they trust Democrats and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to do what Republicans were unable to do.

It’s a tall order. Minnesota Democrats feel battered and somewhat put upon by Republicans who were in control of the Legislature the past two years, to say nothing of their dislike for former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But there are signs new Democratic leaders are ready to put politics aside and work with the minority to dig the state out of its financial hole. That pragmatism was reflected in comments this week from Senate Majority Leader-elect Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, who said: “There’s going to be very little money to do anything with. People are going to have to restrain themselves.”

If Bakk and his counterpart in the House can convince their caucuses “to restrain themselves,” there is hope for bipartisan solutions to the state’s fiscal problems. The temptation to overreach has to be resisted, even as Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor is a Democrat. That’s a situation that has not occurred for 20 years. The new Legislature convenes next month.

Minnesota voters are increasingly impatient with St. Paul. They endured government shutdowns and threats of shutdowns during the years Pawlenty and Democratic legislative leaders were at odds. They elected Dayton, and then gave him a Republican-controlled Legislature. The result of the 2012 election suggests they weren’t at all happy with that arrangement.

So now it’s an all-DFL Capitol. Now Democrats, who have been highly critical of Republican control, have to show what they can do. If they don’t deliver, voters will toss ’em out as readily as they did Republicans a few weeks ago.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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