Another budget meeting, another day of no progress

With each meeting over Minnesota’s $5 billion budget deficit comes a new wave of emotion — but no progress.

Pessimism. Optimism. Relentless optimism. Confusion. Irritation. Both lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton have felt them all, and they seem to change every day.

Dayton and the GOP leaders met again Wednesday to discuss the Republicans’ “halfway point” unveiled this week.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers pointed to the plan as “big progress this week,” although no one on either side of the aisle is actually specifying that achievement.

Dayton, who has switched between optimism and pessimism over the likelihood of a partial state government shutdown beginning July 1, seemed cheerier than usual on Monday.

The governor said he was “slightly more optimistic” a government shutdown could be avoided after Monday’s meeting and the GOP proposal, which he characterized as “meaningful.”

Gov. Mark Dayton
MinnPost/James Nord
Gov. Mark Dayton

But that cheer was nowhere to be found Wednesday — 24 hours after two of his fiscal commissioners were “berated” by Republican members of the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy. And that’s after the governor instructed them not to attend the commission’s first meeting.

“I told [the Republicans] it was unacceptable,” Dayton told reporters Wednesday.

He also said that “if it [budget negotiations] continue on this course,” a partial government shutdown is more likely than before.

Although they met weekly for breakfast during the session and say they have a cordial relationship, both Dayton and the Republican leaders have complained about a “disconnect” between meetings and public comments afterward.

Dayton said, despite a respectful meeting, the GOP came out and played the “blame game,” trying to pin the state’s fiscal mess on him.

While the governor came out of his office looking slightly dejected — he took a deep breath before approaching the podium and opened with, “We had yet another meeting” — the GOP leaders are consistently upbeat.

“We are going to keep meeting. We are going to keep working. We are going to get back to growing the state economy,” Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel said after the talks.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel
Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel

Dayton called the whole process a “political sideshow” while the GOP has called for the governor to attend more meetings and to empower his commissioners to negotiate freely.

The governor, who requested a GOP “halfway point” last week, insists he still hasn’t gotten one. The Republicans say the plan they unveiled Monday meets the governor in the middle.

True, the Republicans met Dayton’s targets for nearly half of the state budget (K-12 education, public safety and the judiciary), but that just means the extra $110 million in spending would have to come from other budget categories..

Dayton is still pushing for new revenue to avoid the GOP’s all-cuts budget-balancing plan.

“I am not going to agree to their extreme position,” he said. “I’m not going to go all the way.”

Republicans are holding firm, though.

“We don’t believe that we need new revenue,” Zellers said, maintaining that the predicted $34 billion in revenue over the next two years is enough.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Patrick Tice on 06/08/2011 - 04:46 pm.

    Well, I guess hope springs eternal. The citizens on Minnesota expect – and deserve – a thoughtful compromise on the budget.

  2. Submitted by will lynott on 06/08/2011 - 08:13 pm.

    Gov, hang in there. The residents of Minnesota, who, as you know, strongly back your “part cuts-part tax increases” approach and who prefer the way you govern to the extremist republican legislature, are backing you all the way (minus a few inexplicable soreheads).

    If they force us into a shutdown because they would rather put grandma on the ice floe than ask the only economic demographic that has not been asked to help balance the budget (ie the rich) to do their part, then let them try to explain that indefensible position to the voters next year. And believe you me, they’ll have to.

    This was predictable. The Rs had a good time sniping from the sidelines when they were in the minority, but then suddenly–to their consternation–they were in charge, with no clue as to how to deal with it. Since all they have is slogans and sound bites, but no thoughtful governance, they are not capable of understanding that the population is growing, costs for everything are rising, and there are more highway miles to repair, more kids to educate, and more people who can’t afford the health care that many of us take for granted. They actually profess to believe that last year’s budget will suffice for this year’s.

    Jesus wept.

    Here’s a newsflash for them: their constant bleating that their budget is higher than any previous budget is stating the obvious–EVERY budget is bigger than the last–for obvious reasons. So what’s their point?

    The real question is not how much money you’re spending but what you’re getting for it. There was a time when I though republicans stood for, among other things, paying your debts. I’m disabused of that notion after 8 years of TP. Just imagine robbing almost $2 billion from the fund that educates our kids. Just imagine that.

    The money is out there, and a lot of the people who would be tapped for it have no problem with your approach. You only have to ask them, something the wingnuts in the legislature find it impossible to do.

    We’ll fix this in 2012. So a lot of the extremist freshmen would rather go down in flames than sacrifice their beliefs–sorry, principles? We’re going to give them their wish. In the meantime, HANG IN THERE.

  3. Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/08/2011 - 11:21 pm.

    I’m afraid it’s well past the point where one can expect a thoughtful compromise. If we get anything in the way of compromise, it will be a hastily contrived bit of political posturing intended to get us through to the next session, where it can all start again.

    If Republicans want to end programs, let them spell them out. If they want to cut state employees (as their proposed budget for operating state government indicates) then let them say which personnel from which departments, within which divisions, and performing what tasks. That’s what we do in the private sector they idolize.

    Instead, they crow about holding the line and letting Dayton decide who goes, a win-win for Republicans next election. Cowards is too nice a term.

  4. Submitted by John Jordan on 06/09/2011 - 07:44 am.

    The definition of a “thoughtful compromise”? Republicans throw away their core principle that gov’t doesn’t need more money and raising taxes harms job growth.

    The fact of the matter is that Mark Dayton wants a tax increase for just one reason; 2012. The DFL will pound every Republican who votes for a tax increase telling voters “see, they lied!” It is the ONLY reason he’s doing this, not because he’s got some principle he’s standing on.

    Voters aren’t stupid and most see this for what it is, DFL posturing. Not one more dime is needed, no more spending is needed, and raising anyone’s taxes is certainly not needed.

  5. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/09/2011 - 08:15 am.

    Sorry, John #4, the pounding will come from the right wing of the Republican party, which apparently is obvious to everyone but you. If Dayton wants to win back a legislative majority in 2012 he should be hoping for no tax increase vote from the Republicans. It will prove the Rs have abandoned the middle class and moderate majority of citizens to help the wealthy and the social extremists on the right. That position is probably good for no more than 35% of the vote.

    I saw someone here say that the only reason Dayton is governors is because Horner cut into the Republican vote. Being a moderate, although one with eccentric positions, he probably cut into Democratic totals more. I think some voters were confused and believed that there was still a moderate wing of the Republican party. This session has shown that that is not true, at least no moderate wing with the courage to stand up the right wing now controlling that party.

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