Happy Inauguration Day

[Editor's note: Today, J. Patrick Coolican brings you the Morning Hot Dish politics newsletter with a brand new (and evolving) format. Your news tips and feedback are welcome at patrick.coolican@startribune.com]

Wake from that holiday hibernation Minnesota politicos and drink a quad Americano cuz we’re back!

Happy New Year and happy Inauguration day. It’s currently -9 degrees as I write this.

Gov. Mark Dayton will celebrate his victory – the first governor to win a majority of the votes in two decades – with…”a low key inaugural.” Beyonce will not be on hand to lip synch the national anthem.

AP scribe Brian Bakst reports: “Dayton spokesman Linden Zakula said ... that there are only two events planned, the swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 5 and an open-to-the-public party five days later…The formal swearing-in will occur at noon at Landmark Center on the year's first Monday, as is tradition…The “North Star Ball” will be held at the Union Depot in St. Paul with a cash bar and admission ranging from $15 for students to $50 for others who buy at the door….”

The governor will eschew black tie and wear jeans.

No Toby for us

Bakst also reports governors in neighboring states, especially the Republican kind, are throwing better shindigs, including new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who will “hold a $1,000-per-person dinner and reception at that state's Capitol. The Republican also will be feted in a concert headlined by country star Toby Keith and blues artist Buddy Guy.”

Toby Keith lyric interlude: "Hey Uncle Sam, put your name at the top of his list / And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist"

Minnesota, playing to type, gets jeans and a cash bar.

Why don’t we hold the thing in a Lutheran church basement and give everyone a Styrofoam cup of coffee while we’re at it?

Moving on…

Expect a bit more pomp and majesty tomorrow as Republicans take back the helm of the Minnesota House. Rep. Kurt Daudt will officially take the gavel. Family and friends will witness the peaceful transition of power – still a powerful symbolic act. Expect a short speech from Daudt.

So the real question is….

Now what? Both sides have been a bit coy about their legislative agendas (they each have one, right?).

Transportation, which received short shrift during the recession’s years of budget crisis, will be a key battleground.

ICYMI: Pat Condon and Janet Moore run down the problem and the potential dynamics of a fix.

Nut graf: "About 1,200 of Minnesota’s more than 20,000 bridges are classified as structurally deficient — they’re safe, but need to be monitored, maintained and ultimately replaced. Minnesota has the fifth-largest highway system in the nation, at 140,000 miles, and its condition ranks in the bottom third nationally. A panel of transportation experts that Dayton convened in 2012 said about $6 billion in new money is needed in the next decade just to keep the state’s current system of roads and bridges in decent working order."

Classic Minnesota quote: “I would say the roads are pretty good, but there’s always room for improvement,” Marvin Windows & Doors' Dan Lykken said.

The money comes from where?

Dayton is proposing a different style of taxing gasoline than the current tax-per-gallon approach, which raises the same amount per gallon no matter how much gas costs.

Dayton is still working out the details of his proposal, which he calls a “wholesale gas tax,” resembling a traditional sales tax. It’s collected as a percentage of the price of fuel rather than a flat dollar amount per gallon, meaning the state’s take would rise and fall with gas prices.

Dayton said under his proposal, the state’s 28.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax would remain in place. At current gas prices of around $2.15 per gallon, the wholesale tax would likely result in about 12 cents per gallon more to fill a tank.

Here’s a helpful graphic on the transportation budget picture.

And another on the worst bridges, so you know which to avoid (!).

House Republicans want to secure funding for roads for what they believe are neglected outstate areas, without wanting to raise taxes, though Daudt has thus far said nothing is off the table.

Here’s Pat Condon’s interview with Dayton, in which he sounds like a man unfettered.

Here’s my interview with Daudt, noting the contrast from the fiery GOP rhetoric of four years ago.

MPR looks at the upcoming session’s key players.

The Pioneer Press with a comprehensive curtain raiser, discussing hopes of bipartisanship.


Klobuchar on 'Meet the Press'

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was on “Meet the Press” this weekend. No big surprises. Here’s the transcript.

The New York Times says to expect Republicans in Washington to act quickly, especially on energy and health care. Get ready for a lot of vetoes.

Chris Cillizza sets up the 2016 Republican field for the Washington Post, noting that the race has quickly moved into a more intense phase. Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush have catalyzed it.

In other states, the Post reports, Republican juggernauts are moving on a range of conservative policies “aimed at limiting the power of the federal government and rekindling the culture wars.” Worth a read.