Dayton becomes first Dem. Minn. governor since '91

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mark Dayton broke the nation's third-longest Democratic drought for a governorship in Minnesota on Monday, urging Republican legislative majorities to avoid gridlock as they jointly confront a monumental budget challenge.

Dayton took the oath of office before hundreds of people in a historic auditorium in downtown St. Paul. The 63-year-old former U.S. senator survived a mandatory recount to become the state's first Democratic governor in two decades and its 40th governor overall.

"If we serve only the people who voted for us, we guarantee destructive division and we risk paralyzing gridlock," he said in his inaugural address. "We must do better than that."

The state is expected to face a $6.2 billion budget deficit during Dayton's first two years as governor. He ran on pro-tax platform, but Republicans taking over the Legislature say they won't approve tax hikes.

On Tuesday, Republicans will grab control of both legislative chambers for the first time since 1971.

Dayton challenged opponents of his pledge to raise income taxes on the wealthy to fashion an alternative that doesn't shift the burden to locally imposed property taxes. He vowed to sign such a bill immediately. But the new GOP caucuses aren't expected to propose their own budget plan for about two months.

Democrats now hold all of Minnesota's state and federal offices decided by statewide votes for the first time since 1978.

Connecticut, which like Minnesota had gone without a Democratic governor since 1991, also elected one in November. The states with longer Democratic outages are South Dakota and Utah.