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Dayton and lawmakers: Climbing out of financial hole is priority

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Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders of both parties agree that balancing Minnesota's budget is the top priority during the legislative session that begins in January. And Dayton says this time he wants it done without fiscal shifts or borrowing.

Two years ago lawmakers and the governor eventually wrestled a deficit of more than $6 billion to the ground. But it took a government shutdown and an IOU to the state's school districts to make it happen. The deficit for this biennium is estimated at $1.1 billion, but that could change dramatically if the federal government goes over the "fiscal cliff."

While both DFLers and Republicans agree the budget takes precedence, that should not be confused with bipartisanship. 2013 will mark the first time in more than 20 years that a single party has controlled both chambers of the Legislature as well as the governor's office.

DFLers don't want expectations for change to get too high, with Dayton cautioning against a "sky's-the-limit sort of approach." Since Republican votes won't be needed to pass legislation, the party may spend much of the session on the sidelines. But its voice will be heard. MinnPost reports Senate Republican leader David Hann used facial expressions or words to disagree with every DFL suggestion during Monday's preview.

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