Dayton vents this morning and GOP this afternoon over budget

Letters are flying back and forth. The governor’s disgusted — perhaps, really disgusted. Republican legislative leaders are disgusted, too.

His fault. Their fault. A shutdown is 28 days away.

In other words: situation normal at the state Capitol this morning.

Here’s how bad it is in this post-legislative session “cooling-off period.”

Dayton seeks budget ‘mediator’
Gov. Mark Dayton wants to use a mediator to help “set the parameters” of discussions between him and Republicans over how to resolve their budget difficulties.

Actually, Dayton thinks two mediators might be needed.

He’d appoint one. The Republicans would appoint the other.

So far, though, Republicans haven’t agreed to the idea of any mediators.

Gov. Mark Dayton
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Gov. Mark Dayton

Instead, they’ve really irritated Dayton by dusting off something called the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy. The committee they appointed includes 13 Republicans and five DFLers. And House Minority Leader Paul Thissen was left off altogether.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers sent two of Dayton’s commissioners, Jim Schowalter and Myron Frans, a letter requesting their presence this afternoon for a session/grilling before this commission.

The governor did not receive a letter telling him of the Republican plan to interrogate his commissioners. (It should be pointed out that reporters did.)

Instead, he received a phone call from one of the commissioners.

How’d the governor react to this bit of information?

“There they go again,” said Dayton at a media event this morning.

Seldom has Dayton appeared so disgusted as he appeared this morning. Words like “grandstanding” and “stunt”and “not rational” and “not responsible” and “antic” flowed from his lips.

He has told the commissioners they are not to appear before the committee.

“They [Republican leaders] would berate a couple of commissioners because I won’t negotiate against myself,” Dayton said.

Legislative Commission prompts sparring
There’s a legal question involved here. There’s some thought that the Legislative Commission has legal authority to demand commissioners to appear.

“There was no public notice about this meeting,” said Dayton of the Republican effort to call his Management and Budget commissioner and his Finance commissioner to this afternoon’s hearing. “They didn’t get a letter until after 4 o’clock [Wednesday] for a meeting today. Let’s get real here. We are NOT at the beck and call of the Legislature.”

As always, the governor pounded home the point that he has compromised on his position. Initially, the budget for 2012-13 was set to be $39 billion. Dayton has cut that number to $35.8 billion.

Republicans claim they started with a plan to come up with an all-cuts budget of $32 billion, but have “compromised” at $34 billion. (The higher Republican number came with the improved economic forecast in March.)

Even given the Republicans’ baseline $32 billion, Dayton said this morning, his compromise number is closer to a midpoint.

“What are they willing to do?” he asked, his voice filled with frustration. “I’ve agreed to part of their solution. … They need to agree to part of mine.”

Republicans don’t seem to think so.

They repeat their position — no new revenue — over and over again, even in the “cooling-off” period.

“I’m taking a stand,” the governor said, “because the consequences for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans would be just terrible [under the Republican proposal].”

What is interesting in Phase 2 of this impasse is that the Republicans have turned to the Legislative Commission that they ridiculed just a year ago, when it was dusted off and brought into prominence when DFLers were in the majority of both legislative bodies.

A year ago, Republicans were sneering at the commission, which hadn’t been a prominent factor in government for years. They said it was just a political platform for then-House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who had visions of becoming the next governor.

Kelliher did use the commission to berate the Pawlenty administration.

Now, it’s the Republicans turn to use the same tool.

Dayton says there’s a fundamental difference. Last year, he said DFLers used the commission only while the Legislature was in session.

That’s not completely accurate. The bulk of the Pawlenty bashing before the commission did happen while the Legislature was in session, but the commission continued to meet after the session as well.

Ultimately, of course, the commission was pretty much powerless against the governor.

Whether the same will be true this year, remains to be seen.

Certainly, the use of the commission does give the Republicans a chance to vent in a public forum, as Dayton did this morning.

Just what impact all of this venting will have on a meeting that the governor and legislative leaders are to have Friday morning about their budget stalemate is unclear.

Perhaps, all of this is just the storm before the calm.

More likely, though, more storms are headed our way.

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 (18)

  1. Submitted by jody rooney on 06/02/2011 - 11:52 am.

    This is what happens when you elect political junkies to the legislature. They thrive on drama. There is more to life than politics for politics sake.

    It would be nice if the legislature was a bit more civic minded than theatrical.

    A pity the sensible approach of looking at expenditures and tax subsidies aren’t looked at in a more objective manner.

  2. Submitted by Tony Cuppacalucci on 06/02/2011 - 12:11 pm.

    Recent tweet from KSTP’s Tom Hauser: Recent polit. contrib. by J. Lebedoff, Dayton’s suggested “mediator”: $500 Ciresi for Sen, $230 Obama for America, $500 Klobuchar for Sen.

  3. Submitted by Mike Hicks on 06/02/2011 - 01:14 pm.

    Meh on #2. Of course he’d want an advocate for his position. Isn’t the limit per candidate $2000 anyway?

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/02/2011 - 01:34 pm.

    What was that old saying, again?

    “When you’re in a deep hole [of negative public opinion], the first thing to do is stop digging.”

    Yet, like the “energizer bunny,” our dysfonic Republican friends just keep going, and going, and going, and going…

    In refusing to even consider a mediated solution, the Republicans reveal, once again that they are so dysfonic as to be


    of compromise. This is NOT a conscious choice they’re making. Their dysfunctions render them completely unable to even consider the possibility of true compromise.

    The only “compromise” they will accept is the one Tim Pawlenty constantly demanded – that the Democrats cast aside their OWN principles and come all the way over to the other side.

    That’s not going to happen this time, but because of their dysfonic nature, our “conservative” Republican friends are going to keep their shovels flying, just digging themselves deeper and deeper and deeper,

    all the while proclaiming to themselves in their cozy little echo chamber “WE agree with EACH OTHER, and the only people whose existence we even recognize (those who give the appearance of wealth) agree with us so, therefore, WE OBVIOUSLY MUST BE RIGHT.”

    Their dysfunctions will not allow any countervailing experiences or information to enter their awareness.

    So… keep digging, my dysfonic Republican friends. By the time you’re done, you’ll have dug yourselves down so deep that the public will not even notice that you’re running in the next election (except to avoid anyone with an “R” next to their name as if filling in that oval would give them pneumonic plague),…

    in direct proportion to the ways you did not even begin to notice, nor did you care in the least how much damage and destruction you were causing in their lives by refusing to raise taxes on those who could most easily have afforded it and wouldn’t have missed the money at all.

  5. Submitted by Jeff Wilfahrt on 06/02/2011 - 01:42 pm.

    Not to worry Tony, I’m sure the second mediator the Republicans name will be squeaky clean and devoid of bias.

    Not that you were implying anything Tony…

    Jeff Wilfahrt, Rosemount, MN

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/02/2011 - 01:49 pm.


    The Republicans would get to select their mediator as well.

  7. Submitted by Michael Corcoran on 06/02/2011 - 03:16 pm.

    So calling the commissioners before the legislative committee is a ‘stunt’, but calling for a ‘mediator’ isn’t?

    The Governor appeared to be very hostile in his press conference this morning. Is Mark losing his cool?

  8. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/02/2011 - 04:24 pm.

    Let him lose his cool. I’m losing my cool. And the ENTIRE legislature needs to lose their pay. In fact, I’m beginning to think that they need to pay back ALL of it. I don’t see what’s been accomplished this session.

    As far as stunts go, I fail to see how calling in commissioners to berate them (they have no vote on the budget or the ability to sign it) equates to calling in a mediator to GET THINGS DONE. Stunt or otherwise, I want to see what works. Now.

    Unfortunately, too many people want to simply play politics while ignoring the rational part of their brain screaming “STOP!” Worse, they’re ignoring their constituents, who according to the most recent polls, are screaming “GET IT DONE and QUIT THROWING US UNDER THE BUS!” Voters remorse, unfortunately, but our legislators, in theory at least, still have a duty to their constituents before their party.

  9. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/02/2011 - 04:30 pm.

    Michael, if Dayton wasn’t getting angry with the petulant brats we call the legislature, THEN you could wonder about his sanity. On the other hand, I’m sure the MNGOP will appreciate that you chose to repeat their theme of the week.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/02/2011 - 06:28 pm.


    We had a legislative session already, all these commissioners already testified and the Republicans either ignored what they said or weren’t interested. Yes, calling them back at this point is a stunt. The Republicans were supposed to do their homework BEFORE they passed legislation. Now they just want to replay their idiotic argument instead of negotiate a settlement. One thing it is to be a rookie, but this is simply stupid.

  11. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 06/02/2011 - 06:31 pm.

    Yes, Dayton wants a mediation that is equally represented on both sides.

    The Republicans want a mediation that is 13 to 5 in their favor.

    How can you discuss anything with people who honestly think 13 to 5 is as fair as 1 to 1?

  12. Submitted by Eric Larson on 06/02/2011 - 07:32 pm.

    Some of us need to edit are ourselves for length. I am guilty of that. So long winded one. Your point.

    “….they will accept is the one Tim Pawlenty constantly demanded – that the Democrats cast aside their OWN principles and come all the way over to the other side”.

    Unless I missed my recent history. TPaw did demand that is exactly what DFL Majorities in House-Senate did. Then when faced with a govt shut down (and all of their govt employee DFL supporters and campaign workers being unemployed)MAK and Pogey blinked. They blinked so many times.

    Gov Dayton tipped his hand a little. “hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans…” 1st and formost of that 100k are the DFL dominated employees of state and local govt. When faced with no pay or a pay check that is steady, they will cave and so will the DFL.

    Saying they (GOP) will just bury themselves in the next election is almost a badge of honor. They are making a “New Minnesota Miracle”. Worrying about being re-elected is a DFL game.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/02/2011 - 10:15 pm.

    //Saying they (GOP) will just bury themselves in the next election is almost a badge of honor. They are making a “New Minnesota Miracle”. Worrying about being re-elected is a DFL game.

    So right wing Republicans think deficits and government shutdowns are a Miracle. Let’s just sit here and digest that for a moment.

  14. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/02/2011 - 10:23 pm.

    I also agree that we should not underestimate the ability of the Governor and the DFL to screw this up.

  15. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/02/2011 - 11:31 pm.

    (#11)…Worrying about being re-elected is a DFL game….

    What is so wrong about worrying about re-election? Isn’t taking positions that assure your re-election proof of the voters approval of the positions taken by the office-holder? Isn’t failure to re-elect a repudiation of the decisions taken by the office-holder?

    Otherwise, what would be the point or purpose of elections?

    In a way, isn’t it profoundly anti-democratic (small “d”) to say that you will hold a position despite what your constituency wants? That your personal beliefs are far more important than the desires of the electorate?

  16. Submitted by John Olson on 06/03/2011 - 07:10 am.

    Spot on, #8!

    #11, go to any regional city in Minnesota and take a look in the parking lot of a motel to see how many highway construction company vehicles are there overnight. Those folks all lose their jobs as well in short order if the state shuts down.

    These elected officials have had five months to get their work done. Unless you are one of those in the top two percent of Minnesotans, based on a taxable income of $250k or more, most of us don’t have four or five months to posture and tweet to our spouse when the household budget is shot to you-know-what.

    The talking points are getting old and stale. It’s time for both sides to meet behind closed doors, take away all of their smartphones, Blackberrys, etc. and not come out until it is settled between both sides.

  17. Submitted by John Olson on 06/03/2011 - 07:11 am.

    Oops…my comments are directed at Mr. Larson (#12), not #11…

  18. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/03/2011 - 07:29 am.

    Likewise, (#12) not (#11)

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