Dayton, GOP senators differ on stadium, seek to cut permitting time
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Democratic Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and Republican Senate leaders agree on the need to reduce the time it takes for businesses and farmers to get state permits, but differ on building a new Vikings football stadium.
A rare, if not unique, meeting with the two top GOP senators and Dayton was more of a get-to-know-you session than one where deals were made.
"A very helpful meeting," incoming Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch of Buffalo called the Thursday gathering in her Capitol office. "It was at 30,000 feet."
Without discussing specifics, they agreed to work together to reduce the time it takes farmers and businesses to get state permits, such as the Pollution Control Agency issues before many major projects can proceed.
Most of the meeting was about jobs and just getting to know each other before the Jan. 4 legislative session start, but Dayton and the Senate leaders, along with Lt. Gov.-elect Yvonne Prettner Solon, discussed a new stadium for a minute and a half.
"The photo on YouTube is dramatic," incoming Assistant Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel of Edina said of the Metrodome roof collapse, but less dramatic than the deflated economy.
"We love our Vikings, but first things first," Michel said, emphasizing the need to create jobs.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, with the possible help of Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, likely will introduce a stadium bill, funded in part by taxes on things such as sports jerseys.
Michel turned thumbs down to any stadium plan that would use state money.
Dayton repeated what he said during the campaign, that if he was convinced that a new stadium would bring in more money than it took to build, he could support it. In any case, he said, he wants to be involved in a stadium debate early.
The Democrat predicted a stadium debate would conclude near the end of the legislative session, in May.
When the dome collapsed Sunday, it underlined the fact that the nearly 30-year-old facility is aging, Dayton said. But, he added, it does not make the need more urgent. The Vikings already said they will not play there after next season.
On another topic, Dayton said it is "totally unacceptable" for the state to take nine months to get involved in an updated federal Medicaid program. That is how long a bureaucrat said it would take if Dayton signs onto the plan soon after he takes office Jan. 3.
Democrats, including Dayton, said the federal health care program will bring more money into the state. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other Republicans say the program for the poor actually will cost the state.
Usually, meetings of a governor and legislative leaders from the opposite party only happen late in a legislative session. It is rare for them to occur before a session even begins.
Koch and Michel gave Dayton a large container of peanut M&Ms during their private meeting. He carried the bow-topped container of the colorful candy into a post-meeting news conference.
Dayton has a weakness for chocolate, but gave it up during his campaign for governor.
The governor-elect plans to meet with House GOP leaders next week. Republicans will control both the House and Senate next year.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.