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Today’s budget question: Do DFLers have a Plan B?

With the governor’s veto stamp hovering over the budget-balancing bill passed by the Legislature Monday without the support of a single Republican, do DFLers have a Plan B?

Is there any way that the governor and Senate and House leaders can find a compromise point as the session moves toward Monday’s conclusion?

In a conference call with reporters this morning, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher indicated that the line in the sand for DFLers is finding a way to pay back K-12 funding, where shifts and borrowing by Gov. Tim Pawlenty have shorted schools by $2.7 billion of the $14 billion they are to receive in the current biennium.

Those massive shifts, of course, have been a major tactic in how the governor has managed to balance the budget without increasing taxes.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher

“We are certainly looking for Republicans with ideas on what we should do,” Kelliher said of the annual collision course the Legislature and the governor have been on. “They’re in a place where they have a strong hand.”

But their legislative hand only is strong if they’re willing to come up with some form of payback system for schools, Kelliher added. She believes the only way that can happen is if at least a handful of Republicans are willing to find some form of “new revenue,” meaning some form of tax increases.

“There has to be a way to pay back,” she said.

Pondering a veto override vote
With a governor’s veto of the DFL plan a certainty, Kelliher said that both the House and Senate are pondering the possibility of attempting an override vote.

Despite the 34-33 vote in the Senate Monday, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller indicated he believes that most, if not all, of the 12 DFLers who voted with Republicans against the DFL bill would return to the flock if called on for an override vote. Senate DFLers have a veto-proof majority if all support the override.

Kelliher, too, seemed confident that the 16 DFL House members who voted against the bill would support their caucus for an attempted override vote. But she would also need to attract at least three Republicans to the DFL side to succeed in an override. That seems like an impossible task.

For the moment, the DFLers are intent on trying to position themselves with Minnesotans as the grown-ups in this dispute, not the governor and the Republican legislators.

“This [budget situation] is so far beyond one person’s ambition,” said Kelliher of Pawlenty’s repeated claims that he will not allow any new taxes.

She said the state is in historic “fiscal peril.” DFLers, she said, have pulled “the curtain back” on Pawlenty.

“The curtain is back, and the Wizard of Oz is standing behind the curtain,” she said. “It turns out he is a regular person who has no plan.”

She also noted that the Legislature has made more than $3 billion in cuts in the last two years in its efforts to balance the budget. Republicans, of course, say that no one has even noticed those cuts, proving government is too big and too costly.

“The idea that people aren’t being harmed is not believable,” Kelliher said of the cuts.

Other legislative work nearly wrapped up
The one thing the Legislature and the governor do have is time — to either balance the budget or lob more insults at each other.

Kelliher said that the House will finish up all its business by the end of this week, leaving only the budget to deal with.

Among remaining major pieces of business in the House is an education bill that gives the governor some of what he wants toward his call for education reform. Included are such items as opening more avenues for people with nontraditional backgrounds to become teachers and adding annual evaluations of teachers and principals.

Rep. Mindy Greiling
Rep. Mindy Greiling

The bill, Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said, “should enable us to be in the competition for [federal] Race to the Top funding.”

But, in the next breath, Greiling also admitted that her bill is filled with items that will not please Pawlenty. For example, the bill would not allow the state to continue to “borrow” money from K-12 funds to balance the budget.

The Senate version of the bill has fewer poison pills, and Greiling seems to believe that a conference committee version of the education bill will have a chance to pass muster with the governor and that the state will try to get back in the race for the federal cash.

“If he vetoes,” said Greiling, “he has vetoed Race to the Top as well.”

But mostly, these last days of the session will be about balancing the budget and whether somewhere in some desk at the Capitol, there is a Plan B.

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

Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 05/11/2010 - 12:13 pm.

    “But mostly, these last days of the session will be about balancing the budget and whether somewhere in some desk at the Capitol, there is a Plan B.”

    It should be noted that the party affiliation of that desk is irrelevant. More specifically, regarding Plan B, one can’t help but wonder whether Gov Pawlenty has a Plan B. He’s his typical self, full of bluster about vetoing the budget, but where’s his alternative? He says “just pass the cuts from my unallotments,” which, we all know, would still leave a budget deficit. So where’s his plan to solve the problem? Or is he going to just close the doors & pretend shutting down gov’t is a rational solution?

  2. Submitted by Howard Salute on 05/11/2010 - 12:20 pm.

    I cannot understand what world these people live in? quoting the article…”Kelliher, too, seemed confident that the 16 DFL House members who voted against the bill would support their caucus for an attempted override vote.” Really?? And you are the DFL endorsed candidate for governor?? Well…MAK, if you can override…please do it! We are watching.

  3. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 05/11/2010 - 12:22 pm.

    I’m sure they have another plan.

    But I look at it this way. They were collectively “hired” by the people of Minnesota to build the best state they can. They get to Saint Paul and find that someone who thinks he’s the “boss” doesn’t want to build a state, but wants to build a dung heap instead because it costs less, he doesn’t care about the people and if he builds a dung heap in Minnesota maybe everyone will want him to build a bigger dung heap for the country. The legislators essentially say: I wasn’t hired to build a dung heap.

    I don’t know how it will turn out, but most of us hired to do a job want to do the job we hired for, not something totally different that is the opposite of what we were hired to do.

  4. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 05/11/2010 - 12:44 pm.

    The Gov. figures borrowing past his term of office is a good way to pass off a hot potato. Let the next guy be burned.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/11/2010 - 01:32 pm.

    Democrat Plan B: Cutting spending is racist; the GOP is racist; the Governor is a racist and it’s Bush’s fault.

  6. Submitted by Tim Walker on 05/11/2010 - 02:04 pm.

    The GOP ain’t racist!

    The Southern Strategy is a myth!

    Two plus two equals five!

  7. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/11/2010 - 02:36 pm.

    I think the gov’s hope is that if we cut off health insurance to the poor, unemployable, crippled and mentally ill, eventually enough of them will die out to balance the budget for all those unfortunate wealthy people who have such a terrible burden to bear.

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/11/2010 - 03:16 pm.

    Well done, Tim! You’ve been practising, haven’t you?

  9. Submitted by Lance Groth on 05/11/2010 - 04:09 pm.

    Comment #5 is typical of what we’ve come to expect from the Party of No. They offer no solutions to the severe and complex problems facing this state adn this country – because they don’t have any. Instead of negotiating for the good of all, they prefer to play petty politics and point fingers at Dems – fiddling while Rome burns, as it were.

    The finger pointing takes a lot of gall from the party that handed Obama a smoking ruin of a financial system, a bottomed out economy, two unresolved wars, not even a smidgen of a plan for getting off oil and achieving energy independence, and the mastermind of 9/11 still very much alive and free, despite Dubya wanting him “dead or alive”. The latter is a neat trick when you have the full power of the U.S. government, the most powerful military establishment in the history of the world, and seven years to pursue it.

    In addition to lacking any solutions, it seems they also lack any decent sense of shame.

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/11/2010 - 05:11 pm.

    More to the point, does the governor have a plan B?

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/11/2010 - 05:14 pm.

    What I tell people is that the legislature should pass the very best bill it can, and leave it at that. If the governor vetoes, it’s up to him to come up with an alternative, this time maybe a legal one. If at some point in the future the governor wants to deal seriously with the state’s problem, Margaret and Larry should leave him with their cell phone numbers.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/11/2010 - 05:54 pm.

    Right, Lance; it’s Dubya’s fault! Oh, we’re rolling now!

  13. Submitted by Brad Kaeter on 05/11/2010 - 07:27 pm.

    I think the legislature should send up a budget they (the majority) can agree on. The Governor can veto it or line-item veto it, then both parties can defend their choices at the ballot box in November. Regardless of the rhetoric, that’s how it is supposed to work.

  14. Submitted by Patrick Guernsey on 05/11/2010 - 07:52 pm.

    Nobody noticed?

    Bridge collapse?

    4-day school weeks?

    Fewer police officers?

    Fewer fire fighters?

    Fewer building inspectors?

    Court system backed up, closed Wednedays?

    State college tuition hikes?

    Potholes anyone?

    How about a Vikings Stadium???

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/11/2010 - 10:11 pm.

    No one was hurt by the cuts? Hmmm. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had… I don’t know, something like a news media that went out and did stories about the people who are affected by budget cuts. Well I guess it’s hard to fit that stuff in with all the stadiums and weather stories. (not complaining about Minnpost by the way).

  16. Submitted by Mike Downing on 05/12/2010 - 08:41 am.

    Why has the DFL wasted three months and not have a plan B? They have shown no leadership and therefore do not deserve it on 11/2/2010 when we vote.

  17. Submitted by Mike Downing on 05/12/2010 - 08:44 am.

    Hiram Foster must need a remedial class in civics. It is the legislature that has the responsibility to pass Bills that the Governor will sign.

  18. Submitted by Brian Simon on 05/12/2010 - 09:16 am.

    “It is the legislature that has the responsibility to pass Bills that the Governor will sign.”

    What is the governor’s responsibility?

    I thought the point was to negotiate, and perhaps even – perish the thought – co-co-compromise. Its easy to just blame the legislature, but the problem they’re facing now was compounded by last year’s refusal to negotiate in good faith, instead choosing to legislate from the executive branch. Now the Gov’s solution this year is for the legislature to retroactively legalize his prior illegal actions? Nevermind, of course, that even that step would not balance the budget.

    Perhaps, instead, it is time for Gov Pawlenty specifically & Republicans generally to wake up to the fact that taxes are lower today than they’ve been in 60 years. Perhaps, as several people pointed out yesterday, perhaps asking people making $200K a year to kick in another $300 isn’t the job-killer that the no-new-taxes religion alleges. Do they really even believe the nonsense they say?

  19. Submitted by Charles Senkler on 05/12/2010 - 11:45 am.

    Plan B Electronic pull tabs state wide = $500,000,000 (that’s millions) per year to the state and all MAK has to do is explain it to the A/I casino lobbyst. It’s a no-brainer, a tax that people line up to pay!

  20. Submitted by Colin Lee on 05/12/2010 - 02:38 pm.

    The real question is, when can we stop running this state on Tim Pawlenty’s credit card? So far, he’s been a master of passing the buck to the DFL for a bipartisan spending crisis caused by out-of-control health care costs. Property taxes and future generations will still be paying the Pawlenty administration’s costs decades from now.

    His 2010 endgame is to force the budget into stalemate and then reject a special session, forcing the constitutional clause to take effect that requires property tax hikes to meet the deficit. Then he’ll blame it all on the DFL. It’s the same tired trick he’s performed for all eight long years and he’s got the public relations team to fool almost 50% of the state.

  21. Submitted by Colin Lee on 05/12/2010 - 02:50 pm.

    I should clarify. Pushing state government costs onto property taxes is the trick Tim Pawlenty has used for the last eight years. Using a Constitutional loophole to frame the Democrats for terribly regressive tax increases is a new wrinkle.

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