Incoming DFL leader Paul Thissen defines the mission

Paul Thissen, the Minneapolis state representative just elected to lead the DFL caucus in its new minority status, sees his mission and that of the caucus in three general areas. Based on a conversation over coffee this morning, those three areas are:

  1. Take the role of minority seriously. Use the leverage that comes with that role to stand up for the things that DFLers believe. Work with Republicans where the issue is really trimming wasteful government spending. But give Minnesotans a tough but fact-based vision of “what the majority’s decisions [meaning the next rounds of budget cuts] means for their lives and their communities.”
  2. Be the governor’s partner. Thissen believes that Mark Dayton will be governor soon. Depending on the revenue forecast due out next week, the Legislature may face a fairly urgent task of rebalancing the budget for the current biennium, which runs through June. If the forecast is bad, that will certainly mean more spending cuts, as all of the shifty and gimmicky ways of balancing the budget have been used up. And no matter how the short-term budget looks, the budget for the next biennium starts with something like a $6 billion deficit. Republicans cannot cut without a governor’s signature, which gives the DFL minority relevance as the governor’s partner in reaching those deals.
  3. Lay the groundwork for getting the DFL back into the majority in 2012. If the DFL minorities in both houses do a good job of steps one and two above, the electorate will have a clear choice in November of 2012 between two contrasting views of “how state government should be fitting into their lives.” Thissen believes, as he has to believe, that if that choice is clear, the voters will elect DFL majorities on the next round.

Thissen does not believe the new Repub leaders are angling for the scenario where the gubernatorial election result is tied up in a long recount and an overtime period for the Pawlenty governorship. The incoming speaker and majority leader have said that is not their plan and he believes them.  “In their hearts, they know Mark Dayton will be the next governor,” Thissen said. The statements of the Repub elected leaders have been “temperate,” (as opposed to some of the statements of the MNGOP itself).

But as long as the election certificate has not been issued, the DFL leadership will think about what kinds of issues might arise under the Pawlenty-overtime scenario, and study its options. When I mentioned the spectacular (but ultimately unsuccessful) effort of Texas Democrats to flee to Oklahoma to prevent the newly elected Republican legislature in 2003 from adopting a redistricting plan, Thissen said he had not plan to “hide in Wisconsin.”

Thissen and state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, the newly elected leader of the Senate DFLers, are scheduled to meet with Dayton this afternoon, presumably to talk over some of the above matters.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 11/22/2010 - 12:55 pm.

    In this short article, Rep. Thissen has laid out more of a plan than Speaker Anderson ever did, (in my opinion) and it is one that citizens can become involved in. By continuing to lay out their goals specifically and in public, Rep. Thissen and Senator Bakk will go a long way towards engaging average Minnesotans in the process.

  2. Submitted by David Greene on 11/22/2010 - 01:45 pm.

    Sheila. really? I don’t see any specifics from Thissen at all. And frankly, it’s far too early to expect them. I agree that the DFL messaging under Margaret could have been better. But she did actually get quite a few significant things done, not the last of which was funding for transportation.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/22/2010 - 07:17 pm.

    Hmmm. Depends what the majority wants done. In the matter of redistricting, I was very much on the side of the Texas Democrats, who were being railroaded by the Republican majority. For a time, at least, the term “gerrymander” had a wider currency than it does at present, but that might change fairly quickly.

    While I hope something similar doesn’t happen here in Minnesota this time around, I won’t be all that surprised if Republicans try everything they can think of to skew districts to favor themselves. Nothing about Tony Sutton strikes me as “fair-minded” or “interested in the welfare of Minnesota’s citizens.” He’s astonishingly partisan, and being paid to be that way. The minority party always wants to pad its lead in the legislature as much as possible, and I can’t think of any reason why Minnesota should be an exception to that tendency.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/23/2010 - 08:40 am.

    My strong suspicion is that, in “getting things done” with Gov. Pawlenty, which required quietly and subserviently going along with him on many, many things that should NEVER have been done, the Democrats in the legislature were held equally responsible with King Timmy in the damage now being felt across the state.

    To casual, outside observers (which, sad to say, MOST Minnesota citizens are when it comes to the legislature), the quiescence of the DFL leadership seemed like complicity.

    Consequently, they were voted out of control of the legislature at the same time King Timmy’s heir was not given the Governor’s office (without much attention to political party).

    I am desperately hopeful that Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk do not make the same mistake in responding to the approaches to balancing the budget and creating a “better business climate” (i.e. cutting management loose to maximize profits by underpaying and otherwise abusing their workers and polluting the environment) that will inevitably be attempted by their Republican colleagues.

    “Extremism in the defense of [the long term well being of the citizens of Minnesota] is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of [getting along with those who will NEVER try to get along with you and don’t care about the average citizen] is no virtue.”

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/23/2010 - 08:40 am.

    The leadership of both parties seems keen to avoid any melodramatic showdowns. But the Republican bosses, in particular, do not know how obstreperous the firebrands in the lower ranks will prove.

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