After a summer of quiet, Gov. Mark Dayton roared back Wednesday with unflinching calls for higher taxes and more spending.
"This unwillingness to pay taxes ... it's going to be the death of this country, if it is not corrected," the DFL governor said at the University of Minnesota.
In an hourlong talk, Dayton stood firm on his call for taxes on the wealthy and the need to spend money on education and infrastructure, even in the face of uncertainty about who will control the Legislature for the next two years. Conflict over those positions led to such gridlock between the Republican-dominated Legislature and the Democratic governor last year that Minnesota fell into a bruising 20-day state government shutdown.
"If they come back in the majorities, we will [be back to] butting heads," Dayton said of Republicans. He added an insult to the Legislature's ruling party: "They view compromise as a weakness and intransigence as a virtue."
The entire Legislature is up for election in November, but Dayton is not. He confirmed Wednesday that he plans to run for re-election in 2014. A poll, released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling, found that 48 percent of Minnesotans approved of the job Dayton is doing and "if Dayton was up this year he'd have an easier time of it than he did in 2010."
The results of this year's election for president, Congress and the Legislature will determine how far Dayton can go in his plans for the rest of his first term. If Republican Mitt Romney captures the White House and Republicans have federal and state legislative control, the Democratic governor's ideas for Minnesota's future could remain just ideas.
Dayton is holding off on releasing his detailed proposal for a state tax overhaul and declared a "truce" on implementing the federal health care overhaul until after voters make their judgments at the polls.
After that, he said, it is "unanswered" how much of the health care overhaul he can do without the Legislature's approval.
Sen. David Hann, a Republican from Eden Prairie who agreed to the temporary truce on health care bickering, said he knows the answer.
"It is my understanding that whatever we would do, it would take an act of the Legislature," said Hann, who is a legislative health care leader for Republicans. "I would be astounded, frankly, that anybody would disagree."
Hann said Dayton has already been smacked down by the state courts for "attempting to circumvent the legislative process" by ordering a vote among child-care workers about whether to unionize. Dayton, perhaps with that in mind, noted that if he did try to use his power to enact the overhaul's health care exchanges, he would "probably end up in court."
The governor would also need the Legislature's agreement to enact any sort of tax system changes and is unlikely to find an accord with Republicans on that after the election.
"His strategy will never work. You cannot continue to take money out of the private sector and put it in the public sector. He wants to take it from where it creates wealth to where it consumes wealth," said Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, chairman of the House Taxes Committee.
Dayton said he plans to release detailed plans for tax overhaul in December. He said it would include higher income taxes on the top 2 percent of Minnesotans but could also lower some corporate taxes and close some unspecified loopholes.
If Republicans keep control of the state House and Senate, Davids predicted that "a very loud thud" will accompany those proposals' arrival.
"The only good thing about it," Davids said, "is we will at least recycle the paper it is printed on."
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @rachelsb