Smiles preceed cold realities at CapitolIf great challenges lead to great opportunities, as the old saying goes, Minnesota lawmakers have a whale of an opportunity this year.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
If great challenges lead to great opportunities, as the old saying goes, Minnesota lawmakers have a whale of an opportunity this year.
“There are fantastic opportunities out there,” said new Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, one of 60 new legislators, mostly Republican, who took office Tuesday.
Like many of the 201 lawmakers, Carlson brought family members along for the mostly ceremonial first day of the 2011 session, but he was thinking about the next few months.
“I am anxious to get through today to get to work,” he said.
Lawmakers’ big job, fixing a $6.2 billion state budget deficit, was on their minds Tuesday as they opened their 2011 session, but smiles dominated opening day. Few wanted to talk about the budget shortfall, and a difficulty finding middle ground between Republican legislative leaders and new Gov. Mark Dayton.
As the Senate opened, each senator walked to the front of the chambers to deliver an election certificate. Republicans’ smiles were huge; Democrats’ smiles were much more modest.
Lawmakers from both parties said they were optimistic, but some admitted to knowing things could turn south.
“Nothing has gone wrong,” quipped Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker.
Howes was looking forward to attacking the state’s problems as a member of the majority party but also indicated he was willing to work with Democrats and was optimistic that others would be as well.
“Everything is going to be fine until someone draws the line in the sand,” he said, adding that he thinks “everyone is going to be hesitant to draw that line.”
Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, was among the most realistic, saying there will be problems between Dayton and Republicans.
“I’m not making any summer plans,” Reinert said, referring to a chance that lawmakers and Dayton will not figure out how to plug the budget hole by the time the Legislature must adjourn on May 23. Some around the Capitol predict a special session will be needed to enact a two-year budget that begins on July 1.
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, also had a hard time predicting an easy budget fix.
“I don’t see the road just yet,” he said.