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Government shutdown starts early -- and ugly

Citizens rallied at the steps of the Capitol on Thursday night.
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Citizens rallied at the steps of the Capitol on Thursday night.

The shutdown began early — and ugly.

At about 10 Thursday night, two hours before the final settlement deadline, Gov. Mark Dayton addressed the media.

He ridiculed a last-minute proposal made by Republican legislators, who about 9:30 asked the governor to call a special session and pass a "lights on" piece of legislation that would have kept government going and given the two sides more time to negotiate an issue they've been negotiating since January.

"I take it as a publicity stunt," the governor said of the Republican proposal.


Republican legislators, who were listening to Dayton in the back of the room, started to hoot and boo.

Dayton looked to the back startled.

No one had ever heard legislators from any party boo a governor while he was speaking in such a somber circumstance.

It was almost a "you lie'' moment — and one that showed how, in the end, anger was winning out over any chance of settlement.

Dayton said he rejected signing off on a number of bills because it allowed Republicans to "cherry pick."
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Dayton said he rejected signing off on a number of bills because it allowed Republicans to "cherry pick."

Dayton did not comment about the hoots from the Republicans. And Republican legislative leaders claimed they were not in the room, so they had no comment about the behavior of some members of the House and Senate caucuses.

"This is not what you should focus on,'' said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, when asked about the outbursts.

But the symbolism was hard to ignore.

Despite all the talk — especially from Republicans — that throughout a day of negotiations the two sides were close, in the end it appears they weren't close at all.

Not only were Republicans rejecting Dayton's demands to place a tax increase on Minnesota's wealthiest but they also were loading up many bills with policy language that had no chance of winning Dayton approval.

According to a number of sources, Republicans were demanding that Dayton accept the redistricting map that Republicans had drawn. Additionally, they had included language that would have put strict limits on such things as stem cell research into other bills.

Koch admitted that there were "policy differences." But she insisted those could have been hammered out had the governor agreed to a lights-on bill that would have kept government running while the two sides negotiated.

As usual, Republican leaders also continued to say that the governor was blowing opportunities to "limit the pain" Minnesotans will feel because of a shutdown by signing off on a number of bills, that could have financed everything from K-12 education to transportation programs.

Dayton said he rejected this partial approach because it allowed Republicans to "cherry pick."

That phrase drew more hoots from Republican legislators listening to Dayton.

But Dayton is convinced that the more bills he signed, the less chance there would be to get what he considers a reasonable Human Services bill passed.

Dayton did say that he had offered to cut his fourth-tier income tax to those 7,700 people in Minnesota who make $1 million a year or more. (He didn't say what rate he would have needed to capture a meaningful amount of revenue.)

But Republicans, he said, rejected even that.

Zellers didn't deny that.

But he said it doesn't matter whether "you tax one small group or the whole state," the problem isn't revenue it's spending.

And so this round ended, the two sides still about $1.4 billion apart.

Given the tone of things as the evening ended with first Dayton, then Republican legislators, leaving the Capitol at about 11 p.m., it's hard to see compromise on the near horizon.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (32)

This is a sad day for most Minnesota citizens when elected officials cannot move past campaign slogan to reach an agreement that would have avoided unnecessary pain and inconvenience.

If the eyes of the nation were watching Wisconsin during the union busting legislation was passed, imagine the interest in a preview of a federal budget shutdown.

They were booing his speech? Wow. How utterly feral.

To be clear, this is not reporting, but an opinion piece, correct?

Desperation in the face of a man standing alone for his ethics is a bad sign for the desperate. What do the new GOP lawmakers not understand about the fact that BOTH platforms had a clear mandate?

The booing and hooting of Republican legislators really captures their contemptuous attitude towards our republican (little r) traditions and the rule of democratic law. Such disdain is revelatory of the bad faith in which they seek to govern. But as someone once said, Democrats are interested in governing, and Republicans in power, and political events since the midterm elections have demonstrated this principle thoroughly, here and in Wisconsin and other states more unlucky than ourselves, only insofar as there is nothing in the way to stop the juggernaut of Republican-led class warfare against working people and the remnants of the once-mighty American middle class. Interestingly, Republican efforts to negotiate a compromise with the Governor seemed in the final throes to hinge on passing key Republican pet projects, indicating that it is the Legislature, not the Governor, holding the state hostage right now. The ideological intransigence of our state's Republican legislators is truly shocking and deeply disturbing, a frightening sociopathology that is rotting the heart of our core political institutions both here in Minnesota and in Washington.

I am, or was until last night, a State employee and proud to be so.

I am disheartened that the GOP prefers to place this burden on the average citizens who work diligently day after day to build roads, keep people safe and help people live with dignity.

Do they not understand the basis of our system of government is compromise?

#3 - It's Minnpost, everything is opinion.

Aureliano, thank you for putting my very thoughts into such effective words. Some of us have noticed that the GOP "policy makers" snuck in the back door and have even taken away Minnesotans' due process, using funding as an excuse. For them, it really IS about power.

They should listen to fellow Republican David Brooks, who believes you cannot choose your purpose in life. Your purpose chooses you.

(#3)--where is the opinion in this article?

It's clear that the was no "negotiation" on the part of the Republicans, and it's not as simple as dollar amounts.

It is a day of jubilation for the limited government crowd. They have defended the almighty dollar in deference to the poor and needy. The last olive branch lay now in the dirt of the public arena. Onward to zero taxes on wealth and the voting disenfranchisement of the margins of society.

The GOP must be so proud as we enter the day of celebration of liberty and justice for all.

Jeff Wilfahrt, Rosemount, MN

Republicans fiscally responsible?

Their big idea? "Borrow" more from the schools. Take an "advance" on tobacco settlement.

Kind of like "payday loans" and "cashing out" a structured settlement.

Seems that they get their financial ideas from commercials on late-night TV.

The offer to “first, sign what we want into law, then we’ll talk about the rest later” is such laughable chicanery!

In addition to getting their financial ideas from TV commercials, they get their manners from Jerry Springer.

The main reason the Koch-addled Minnesota Republican legislators are so concerned about keeping the Stillwater bridge open is because they want to help their Koch-buddies across the river in Wisconsin.

They booed the governor!? Disgraceful. Led by Gretchen Hoffman and Pat Gorfolo, the Rs add contemptible behavior to their obstinacy over the budget.

If any republicans manage to get elected next year, I hope at least their voters will send grownups--both to vote and to legislate.

Mr Dayton is doing is doing it just right. Keep it up, Gov!

It's instructive that nowhere in any press account is the disagreement spelled out in plain terms: the governor wants to spend billions more than we have and to raise taxes to do so. The republicans are refusing to go along.

Obviously, the fear is that fact would be too easily digested by the voters.

There is only one tiny positive to this situation. Those who demean government may learn how important it really is to our daily lives. Those who want smaller government...finally got it! (Be careful what you ask for).

Dennis - I think you need to understand that the amount of money the state collects in tax is an arbitrary number to the Governor and most of the Minnpost comment board. "Revenue" to these people is a right of the state and not a burden of the citizenry.

Now I know why Dayton was labeled one of the worst U. S. Senators!

Oh, lord. I checked the strib and saw that the Repug trolls have mounted their wholly predictable comment attack (early posts were 4-1 pro-Dayton), only to find they've started here, too.

The irony to me is that shutting down the government inflicts the most pain on the people Dayton says he is protecting. People of means have less day-to-day reliance on MN government.

(#17, 19, 20)

I'm interested in your crocodile tears related to the government shutdown.

Are you really upset about it? What exactly bothers you about the shut-down?

I would have assumed from the tenor of your comments over time, you would have insulated yourself from the need for government services over the year and the shutdown matters little to you.

I guess the question for the dog is, now that you've caught the car, what do you do then?

Can someone calculate how long the government needs to be shut down before the related drop in expenditures will then equal projected revenues (therefore balanced budget)?

I'd like to know how many of you "no new taxes" people are veterans. It seems to me that you have no concept of citizenship that doesn't involve complaining about taxes and what you are "forced" to give for the sake of living in a free, humane country.

Why is it that so many people on the political right who complain about the size of government are also people who support torture. Why is it that those protecting the incomes of the rich are willing to abandon the poor and down trodden of our society. They seem to believe that if you are old or poor or mentally ill or handicap, you deserve to be so and it is our duty to abandon you. If you are rich, then that is God's way of telling you how swell you are. Isn't that what they call "prosperity gospel"? So when the government tries to take away what God gave you that makes government evil. I'd like to see them justify that with their literal reading of the Bible.

Why is it that all these people who claim to have a "personal relationship" with Christ seem so unchristian in their attitudes toward society, selfishly hoarding their own treasure while others starve.

Tester and Gotzman and the rest of the right wingers will never convince me.

By the way, I am a Viet Nam veteran, enlisted and volunteered for Nam (big mistake). All I ever took from the government for that sacrifice was the GI Bill and a home loan. I pay my taxes and take fair deductions but I don't cheat. I don't benefit directly by Democrat's policies except that it makes the society I live in feel more humane and fair. You guys can snort at that as all touchy feely, but I did my time for this country. I'd like to hear what you have done. Maybe I could respect your position more.

Jesus said, "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." [Luke 12:48b]

When the rich young man came, seeking to follow Jesus, Jesus' reply to him was, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." [Matthew 19:21]

Still our Republican friends, so many of whom claim Jesus as "Lord" and "Savior" believe and practice PRECISELY to opposite of his words. In their version,...

From everyone to whom much has been given, NOTHING will be expected, because those people are just so darned wonderful and special, (which is proven by the fact that they are so rich), that they deserve to have everything; to have it all; to have more and more and more and not to share "even a penny of it."

Jesus' statement had tremendous wisdom in it because it acts as a counterbalance to the way "the rich," if they gain complete control over the levers of power always destroy the society in which they live (while blaming the "worthless, lazy poor" for the effects of their own dysfonic, money-addled blindness).

I THANK GOD that Gov. Dayton is willing to lay it on the line for the severely Dysfonic Republicans: "I will NOT allow you to destroy the state of Minnesota in the pursuit of your illogical and destructive and dysfonic ends, ends which serve no purpose but to destroy the poor and middle class in order to further enrich the already massively wealthy, ends which prove that you worship, not at the altar of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus, but at the altar of Grover Norquist.

Lora, don't despair over the trolls. Their predictable behavior is just confirmation that they're out of work and have nothing else to do while they wait for the state government to reach a budget agreement.

It's either that, or they can go shopping and contribute some tax revenue, but that would be too much to expect, wouldn't it?

Ignore the Republican trolls. They have nothing of substance to add anyway, similar to their "leaders".

Gov Dayton has the right of it on the budget numbers, IMO... but if there really were policy elements being added as well (by either side, frankly), my disgust for the individuals doing so knows no bounds.

We'll see if the (muted) pain of the shutdown as per Judge Gearin's order is enough to wake people up. I suspect, given the apparent attitude of the Republican-leaning comments here, that it'd take people dying of disease and starvation at their doorsteps to even tone down their adulation of the rich, however.

//Can someone calculate how long the government needs to be shut down before the related drop in expenditures will then equal projected revenues (therefore balanced budget)?

Howard, that would be "never". You have to remember the vast majority of expenditures have nothing to do with state employees so shutting down government like this doesn't save any money. The vast majority of expenditures go directly out in services, many of which are essential, and therefore ongoing even during the shutdown.

#27 and #28 labeling nonconforming viewpoints trolls, how progressive of you.

#23 - I don't really care. As part of a duel income no kids family, I doubt it will impact my daily life. I am interested to see if the state of MN is too big to fail.

#30 They were merely responding to my previous post, and I own responsibility for tagging people "trolls." Saw an excellent production of Peir Gynt at the Guthrie a few years back, equating the "trolls" with individuals deformed by selfishness and greed. It may have been implied in the novel, I read it so long ago I don't know. But the production stuck with me. And, while up until that time I'd been bemused by the use of "troll" to describe some of these apparently concerted comment attacks, I've come to see that in the case of the RW, the appellation fits.

#31 - Why do you feel the need to name call? Do you think it adds to the conversation?