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Different approach, same message from Dayton: Work together

Gov. Mark Dayton took a kinder, gentler approach in his Wednesday night State of the State speech, but his message still was the same as in recent public comments when he harshly criticized Republicans.

"If we cooperate, if we share our best ideas, if we exchange our rigid ideologies for our shared ideals, we will revitalize our state," Dayton said in remarks prepared for his second State of the State address to a packed Minnesota House chamber.

There were no comments like he recently made asserting that Republican senators are "unfit to govern." Instead, he used a more subtle tone, frequently using "please" when asking for action on legislation he supports.

The Democratic governor made frequent, mostly indirect, references to long-held disagreements with Republicans who control the Legislature.

"Let's not destroy good wages and benefits; damage our schools, colleges and universities; or curtail our capital investments in a search of another strategy of unproven value," Dayton said.

The governor delivered the State of the State speech in front of joint session of the Minnesota Legislature, with most of the 201 lawmakers crowded into the House chamber. Invited guests filled the gallery above, with the public relegated to a nearby room to watch on television.

He was the first governor since Jesse Ventura to deliver a night State of the State speech. Ventura once talked to Minnesotans from the governor's residence without an audience.

The atmosphere in the Capitol has been tense. Dayton's comments in recent weeks have been even sharper than last year when he and Republicans so severely disagreed on the state budget that government shut down for 20 days.

Dayton made it clear on Wednesday that he feels GOP lawmakers are not consulting him enough.

"I am not interested in highly partisan, extreme measures, which are intended for campaign literature, rather than law," he said.

The governor, in office little more than a year, said that he only will sign bills that have been written in cooperation with his administration and Democratic-Farmer-Laborite legislators.

Dayton never specifically declared his opinion on the overall condition of Minnesota, although he said things are going better economically than in other states. But he made it clear that encouraging job growth is his top priority.

"So I say to legislators, let's take your best ideas and my best ideas and turn them into jobs," he said. "And let's do it now."

Dayton said that passing a public works bill could create 21,700 jobs, but it would be worthwhile even at half that number.

He also promoted a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but offered no new ideas about how to bridge gaps such as how to fund it or where it should be built.

Dayton said that Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, "have been terrific partners in this operation" and suggested they may be close to a stadium deal that he said would put thousands of Minnesotans to work.

"Pass the stadium bill this session," Dayton pleaded. "Please."

Dayton praised his administration's efforts, in cooperation with lawmakers, to speed up state permitting processes that in the past have delayed business expansion.

He said work last year should be continued this year.

The governor said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency helped speed permits so a northern Minnesota wood products company could invest up to $9 million in its facilities. And the Agriculture Department saved taxpayers $300,000 while shortening most grain and produce license renewal waits to less than 30 days, he added.

Dayton also praised instructor Ron Ulseth of Itasca Community College for developing the Iron Range Engineering program that allows students to do engineering work for Minnesota firms.

"It's so successful that the engineering department of Stanford University invited him there to teach their faculty about the benefit of the new model," Dayton said, introducing Ulseth in the House gallery.

While noting education advances legislators and he approved last year, Dayton sounded less than optimistic the trend will continue.

"Already, however, legislators are advancing new proposals, some of which appear designed less to help students next September than to help themselves next November."