GOP ready to work for conservative legislative policies
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Senate's first woman majority leader is ready to do what she and fellow Republicans see as the will of the people: no tax increases and help businesses create jobs.
"We are prepared and able to deliver on the will of the voters," Sen. Amy Koch of Buffalo said Friday night, shortly after Senate Republicans picked her as their leader.
As majority leader, she will be the top-ranking senator and make many of the decisions about what happens in the Senate.
Even though her conservative caucus' policies differ from liberal Democrat Mark Dayton, who is leading the governor's race pending a recount, she said that she can work with anyone.
"We are not looking to cram through legislation and we are not looking to play political games," Koch added, countering rumors that Republican House and Senate leaders could try to push through legislation soon after they take office on Jan. 4 when GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty still could be on the job if a recount is not completed.
Besides being the first woman to be the top senator, Koch leads the first Republican Senate majority ever. Legislators began running with political party designations in 1972, when "conservatives" were in control.
Koch, 39, won the majority leader election over Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie. The senators would not reveal the vote, which happened behind closed doors.
The Republicans planned to elect more leaders late Friday.
Sen. Geoff Michel of Edina said Koch's small-business background was a reason she won the leadership spot. Koch said her work in organizing the Senate GOP's election effort this year helped.
Meanwhile, Democratic-Farmer-Laborite legislative leaders say they will hold Republicans accountable, expect to fight for more state revenue and do not promise to accept Dayton's plan to raise nearly $2 billion by raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans.
Newly elected Senate Minority Leader-Designate Tom Bakk of Cook and House Minority-Leader-to-be Paul Thissen of Minneapolis both unsuccessfully ran for the DFL governor endorsement.
During the campaign, Bakk said Dayton's plan to tax the rich would not bring in enough money. A Revenue Department analysis of the Dayton proposal proved Bakk right, saying it would collect $1 billion less than planned.
While Bakk said the new DFL leaders share many ideas with Dayton, he said that his 30 Senate Democrats will not support everything Dayton wants.
Bakk would not say if he could support a Dayton tax increase because what the candidate said on the campaign trail may not end up in his budget. Still, he said that state government does need more money.
The senator repeated the oft-said DFL talking point that property taxes have risen billions of dollars because Pawlenty refused to raise state taxes.
The DFL "will dispel the myth that new revenue is not needed," Bakk said. "I would call it the Pawlenty myth."
Thissen said he was elected to do what is right for Minnesotans. "It really wasn't about getting the majority back."
Tuesday's election gave Republicans majorities in both the House and Senate, surprising even many in the GOP. While the exact numbers may change if recounts are needed in some races, Republicans have enough members to control both chambers.
In the House, Republicans will hold a 72-62 majority, while they reached a 37-30 margin in the Senate. Twenty-four senators are ready to take their oaths for the first time, while 36 representatives are prepared to do likewise in the 134-member body.
The only Republican lawmaker losing re-election is Sen. Paul Koering of Fort Ripley, the only openly gay GOP lawmaker, who created controversy earlier in the year when he ate dinner with a male porn star. He lost his bid to be endorsed, and then lost a write-in campaign on Tuesday.
Democrats held the House majority for four years, after the GOP had it eight years.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.