House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and his DFL colleagues held a largely for-show event on the state Capitol steps Tuesday morning aimed at persuading a few GOP representatives to defect and support Gov. Mark Dayton’s tax increases.
Six folding chairs branded with signs reading “Courage to Compromise” – ostensibly, a word play on the title of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s recent book – were arrayed on the Capitol steps as a symbol of the GOP votes that would be needed to join House DFLers in passing Dayton’s tax increases.
Thissen, who said he and members of the DFL caucus have asked several unnamed Republicans to join their ranks, wouldn’t discuss specifics about whom they approached or what reaction they got.
He also admitted that House Speaker Kurt Zellers would block such a vote in the unlikely event six Republicans were to switch sides.
Despite the long odds, the DFLers used the event as a springboard to make their case.
“It’s time now for the Republicans to show the courage to compromise,” he said at the end of the event. “It’s time for some other Republicans right now to step up.”
Prior to his remarks, Thissen ushered in a series of Minnesotans who have been severely affected by the state’s now 12-day government shutdown> he said that they would be hurt even more drastically without tax increases necessary to prevent budget cuts.
Claudia Stahl, executive director of an Asian women’s association that runs a 24-bed emergency shelter, said she might have to furlough at least several employees if the shutdown continues. Much of Stahl’s funding comes from the state Office of Justice, which would receive huge funding cuts if the GOP budget were passed.
Michael Vernell, who resides at a group home for the developmentally disabled, made his own impassioned plea: “Don’t shut down my house. We need care very bad, and we need the staff.”
But despite the stories, Thissen couldn’t explain how his challenge to Republicans actually would work. He dodged questions about how he could pass Dayton’s proposed tax increase on Minnesotans earning more than $1 million annually when House leadership has indicated they wouldn’t allow the measure to come to a vote.
He finally said he expected Zellers to be “hard pressed to stand behind his rhetoric” if six members of the GOP caucus joined with Democrats to call for an income tax increase.
The Republican leadership had no immediate reaction to the event.