Bakk surprised by Dayton's stinging criticism

Sen. Tom Bakk
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk talks to reporters at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.
Tom Scheck | MPR News

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, told reporters Monday that he doesn't think political disputes should "get personal."

Bakk said he was surprised that Gov. Mark Dayton criticized how Bakk handled an amendment that would roll back the pay hikes that have already taken effect for his commissioners until July 1. Dayton said Bakk "stabbed him in the back" and that he can no longer trust him.

The dispute between Bakk and Dayton surfaced after Dayton increased the pay of his cabinet. In total, his 26 commissioners and agency heads saw an increase in pay of $800,000. A few commissioners got annual pay raises of $35,000.

Legislators from both parties balked at the size of the pay hike and amended an emergency spending bill to roll back the pay hikes. Dayton balked and said he intends to stand by his commissioners. He said he'll veto the emergency spending bill if it cuts the pay of his commissioners.

Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton talks to the media during a news conference in St. Paul, Minn., Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Minnesota Senate vote to roll back pay raises for state commissioners exposed a deep rift Thursday between Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a fellow Democrat the governor says "connives behind my back."
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP

Dayton said, however, that he would be willing to support a measure in the Republican-controlled House that requires three departments to cut costs to offset the pay hikes of the commissioners.

On Friday, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said he didn't know what the House would do regarding the emergency spending bill. He said they plan to vote on the bill on Thursday.

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Bakk downplayed the dust-up when speaking with reporters Monday. He said he thinks they still have a good working relationship, and he hopes to talk to the governor about the disagreement this week.

"There always is another issue to try to work through after one disagreement where you need to find common ground," Bakk said. "So, that is kind of one of my core leadership principles, I think, to not let any disputes become personal in nature."

Bakk hasn't spoken with Dayton since the rift between the two became public. He said their employees have spoken and he expects to meet with Dayton this week.

Dayton declined to comment on how the two can begin to mend fences. He declined Monday to say how the rift could harm his legislative agenda.

"I'm not commenting on it," Dayton said. "Honestly, I don't know. We both have a job to do for the people of Minnesota and it's imperative that we do that constructively together and that's my expectation."

MPR's Tim Pugmire contributed to this report.