GOP’s ‘halfway point’ is still financial miles from Dayton’s

Speaker Zellers, Sen. Majority Leader Koch and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michel speak to reporters following Monday's meeting with the governor.
MinnPost file photo by James Nord
Speaker Zellers, Sen. Majority Leader Koch and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michel speak to reporters following Monday’s meeting with the governor.

GOP leaders came to Gov. Mark Dayton Monday with their “halfway point” in the ongoing negotiations to solve Minnesota’s $5 billion budget deficit and stave off a partial government shutdown on July 1.

The Republican plan would fund K-12 education and public safety and the judiciary — nearly half of the state budget — at the same level Dayton’s proposal would, a roughly $110 million increase in those areas from the GOP’s base funding targets.

“Today we talked about kids, cops and courts,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told reporters after the meeting, which she called “productive.”

Despite the move toward Dayton’s priorities, no real progress emerged from the proposal, because the shifts would come without additional tax revenue and would require additional cuts in other programs to balance the spending.

GOP leaders, Dayton still at impasse
House Speaker Kurt Zellers called the move a “significant compromise from our caucus,” although Republicans are sticking hard to their $34 billion spending target.

That means the $80 million funding increase for education and the $30 million bump for public safety will come at the expense of other areas in the Republican budget.

“They are going to have to move from the $34 billion [target],” Dayton said.

More than $1 billion separate the two proposals. Despite more optimism from the governor and GOP leaders, it appeared the “halfway point” approach was a limited one.

“It’s not going to work that way with every bill,” Koch said. “We’re not going to meet the governor 100 percent; we’re not going to.”

Dayton insists that negotiations should focus on a “global” budget deal that includes new state revenue, while Republicans have stood firm against tax increases and are seeking a piece-by-piece approach.

“It doesn’t really indicate to me that they’re willing to meet halfway,” Dayton said after Republicans presented the proposal.

Koch disagreed. “We are coming 100 percent to the governor’s budget [for K-12 and Public Safety],” she said.

The bills are also rife with Republican-inspired policies and reforms, which makes negotiations more complicated. Koch said because the GOP moved to Dayton’s numbers on the budget spending targets, there is “an expectation on the reforms.”

Gov. Mark Dayton takes questions from the press following Monday's meeting with legislative leaders.
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Gov. Mark Dayton takes questions from the press following Monday’s meeting with legislative leaders.

That means Dayton would have to agree to policies — such as cuts to integration funding and special-education spending — that he has strongly opposed in the past.

The Republicans hope a special session could be called by the end of the week to pass the bills and enact “nation-leading reform in education.”

“I don’t think that’s likely,” Dayton said.

Other meetings
Dayton and the Republicans will meet again on Wednesday, but executive branch staff and committee chairs will convene all week to continue negotiations on individual budget bills.

Republicans thought Dayton would attend the first of such meetings — held Monday for the K-12 education bill — and were quick to criticize him when he didn’t.

“This morning was very frustrating,” GOP Rep. Tim Kelly said. “The governor apologized for the miscommunication.”

Dayton also said he won’t take part in the upcoming meetings on individual budget bills.

“I had a bunch of other things I had to do,” Dayton said, explaining why he didn’t attend the K-12 negotiations. “We’ve still got a state government to run.”

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Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/07/2011 - 09:10 am.

    This was pure gamesmanship on the part of Republicans. They were, quite simply, offering money they weren’t willing to produce. I am really surprised that the news media, particularly the Strib this morning, fell for this.

    Where education is concerned, the problem isn’t now nor has it ever been, that the Republican funding numbers are significantly different from Dayton’s budget, and in need of compromise. In fact, they are not. The problem is that those numbers cannot be met by the Republican budget as it currently stands. That’s the media blind spot, the Republicans are exploiting so relentlessly.

  2. Submitted by Craig Huber on 06/07/2011 - 10:03 am.

    @Hiram Foster:
    I suspect it goes a bit deeper than even that, tho I certainly concur with your analysis. I also suspect this was an attempt to get the two spending bills most talked about in the media and most likely to create immediate significant disruption signed by the governor, so that those depts could continue to operate in the case of a shutdown.

    The rest of the budget items are the ones the R’s really want to savage… obviously, if the total of these 2 truly represent more than half the budget, but only $110 million of the 1.8 billion difference between their positions (I haven’t double checked all the numbers yet, not sure how accurate that is).

    As a negotiating tactic, you have to give them kudos. The media has largely focused on the impact on education and state prisons in their coverage of the impact of a shutdown so far. “Compromising” by shuffling less than 10% of the difference around between the various pots, not moving on the total number at all, and potentially gaining significantly less immediately obvious impact from a shutdown as a result (at least in terms of what the general news media presents) would be a big win for the R’s.

    Fortunately, Gov Dayton doesn’t appear willing to jump on it just yet. But based on some feedback I heard this weekend from a friend of mine that has significant interactions at the capitol, I could see him using it as a face-saving way out of the problem he faces with the prisons in particular if the shutdown proceeds, and he tries to use the MN constitutional limitations on appropriations to force a true shutdown (as opposed to the Pawlenty soft shoe version of the same).

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/07/2011 - 10:40 am.

    “Why is it that when the Republicans make a move toward Dayton, the word compromise is always mockingly or dismissively put in quotes, and when Dayton makes a move toward Republicans, the word compromise is left unadulterated?”

    So far, it’s because Republican “compromises” haven’t been real compromises at all. It’s important to emphasize that by making sure that what is being said is the Republican version of what’s happening, not what is objectively true.

  4. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/07/2011 - 10:51 am.

    Will the Republicans ever grow up? You can’t shift around some inadequate funding and call it a compromise. I’m amazed Kock has the nerve to say, “We’re not going to meet the governor 100 percent; we’re not going to.” She knows full well she needs to meet the governor only 50%

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/07/2011 - 10:53 am.

    Republicans have often played games with education funding. Gov. Pawlenty was a master of the practice. Here is the way it goes.

    It’s a given that school funding is universally popular. Although rhetoric is tossed around that you can’t solve education problems by throwing money at them, when it comes down to actual decision making, every legislator in the state wants more money for school district, or at least give that appearance. The problem however, is that if you hold revenue flat while the state grows, you have to make cuts somewhere, and since the state biggest expenditures by far are in education and health services, those are the only places where you can make cuts that have meaningful impact.

    The Republican strategy has been to skew their proposals in favor education, popular with voters, while making large and largely unacceptable cuts in health care. This puts the DFL in the position of negotiating down a program that’s both popular, and strongly supported by a big part of the party’s base. Education is also an issue which changes votes. Many, many, otherwise Republican leaning voters vote DFL because the party is seen as favorable to education. The posture Republicans will assume going into the next election is that “we favored fully funding education, it was the DFL governor who prevented us from doing it”. Based on this morning’s news coverage, it appear that’s a line the local media is going to fall for as well.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/07/2011 - 10:58 am.

    “Will the Republicans ever grow up?”

    The Republicans have backed themselves into a corner, one from which it’s hard to see a way out. Quite simply, the state is getting bigger. We see this clearly on the revenue side of the ledger which shows a rise in tax collections, but we haven’t come to grip with the impact of growth on the expense side of the ledger. Republicans pretend that there is no connection, no relationship between how and why money comes in, and goes out. This is simply not so. The two are inextricably related.

  7. Submitted by will lynott on 06/07/2011 - 12:17 pm.

    That’s no compromise. And the Gov’s not biting.

  8. Submitted by Nate Pete on 06/07/2011 - 12:59 pm.

    More shifts. Are you serious R’s. They are gonna shut it down over a small tax on 6 figure earners. I thought everyone had to “tighten there belts”, and “sacrifice”. I guess that doesn’t include 6 figure earners.

  9. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/07/2011 - 01:41 pm.

    I believe this was a 100% publicity stunt by the Republicans. They know this is a waste of time without first reaching agreement on the tax increase for the upper 2%. They let their Tea Party/John Birch Society core supporters know they continue to hold the line on taxes while pretending to the less literate members of the middle that they are compromising.

    “Koch disagreed. “We are coming 100 percent to the governor’s budget [for K-12 and Public Safety],” she said.”…while moving 0% on everything else. In fact moving less than 0% since they will have to shift funds out of other parts of the budget. Maybe they can hack away a few more programs for the poor, raise the deductibles for their health care a few thousand more dollars. Or they could can some more state workers because all those “job creators” they are protecting will need some people to hire for all their new jobs.

  10. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 06/07/2011 - 02:47 pm.

    Amy Koch looks and sounds like she’s the long lost sister of the Koch Brothers. So that tells us where her priorities lie, as well as that she and the Repubs have no clue about how economics work.

    That corner they’ve painted themselves into keeps getting smaller. I don’t think she can hold it that long.

  11. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/07/2011 - 03:17 pm.

    Smoke and mirrors,…

    Nothing but smoke and mirrors,…

    And the news media should hang their heads in shame at the way the initially presented this “compromise” which was, of course,


    I’m beginning to wonder how many of our favorite media figures have sufficient incomes to be affected by Gov. Pawlenty’s proposed “tax increase on the wealthy.”

    It would only be honest of EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM to say so upfront whenever they report on the state budget stalemate and the coming shutdown.

  12. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/07/2011 - 03:45 pm.

    I love the picture at the top of this story. Those are the faces of three true believers that are facing the fact of the governor’s veto power. They stormed into office with a supposed “mandate for change” and they somehow didn’t think they’d have to face the same types of vetos the Democrats have had to face for the last eight years. When the shoe was on the other foot, the governor was the man of principle and the legislature had to come up with a budget he wouldn’t veto. It took a lot of compromising and sacrificing of principles to get a budget by the gov. Welcome to the real world.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/07/2011 - 03:57 pm.

    I think Sen. Michel has a sense of what’s going on. He understands that what is being talked about aren’t issues of substance but how issues are framed.

  14. Submitted by Jeff Wilfahrt on 06/07/2011 - 04:11 pm.

    Hang in there Governor Dayton, some of us are still with you and counting on a show down come high noon. Don’t blink, please.

    Jeff Wilfahrt, Rosemount, MN

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2011 - 04:24 pm.

    The Republicans have backed themselves into a corner, one from which it’s hard to see a way out.

    That why Dayton’s offer at mediation was so brilliant, it gave the Republicans a way out. They were/are apparently too stupid to realize it.

  16. Submitted by will lynott on 06/07/2011 - 05:44 pm.

    Someone predicted they would start blinking pretty soon, and he was right on. That pic above is priceless.

    Hang in there, Gov.

  17. Submitted by John Olson on 06/07/2011 - 05:58 pm.

    The Republicans are only interested in trying to create the illusion that they are “negotiating.” Bullfeathers.

    It is funny that most of my neighbors and colleagues also see this as a ploy, but the media continues to report that they are talking. For all we know, the budget talks last five minutes, and the rest of the time is spent talking about the pathetic state of affairs in the Twin’s bullpen.

  18. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/08/2011 - 06:18 am.

    “That why Dayton’s offer at mediation was so brilliant, it gave the Republicans a way out. They were/are apparently too stupid to realize it.”

    For a while now, the subtext of what Republicans have been saying is a plea to Democrats to provide some formula some way out of the bind they have gotten themselves in. Inside the DFL there is a division of opinion about this. Some feel we should help, others are content to let the Republicans stew in their own juice. That’s a conflict that comes up a lot in politics. For myself, I am not averse to finding some face saving formula that might let them off the hook, but in practical terms, I just don’t know what that would be. The problems the state is facing now are far beyond the level where they can be solved by doing something like calling a cigarette tax a service fee, the kind of thing that worked last time around.

    The Republican Party of Minnesota sold their collective soul to the Tea Party. It was nice for a while, but they now fully understand the Tea Party drives a hard and cruel bargain.

  19. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/08/2011 - 07:02 am.

    Why isn’t the press asking the governor how he can ask for a 25% increase in state spending when we supposedly have a $5 billion budget deficit?

    Seriously. Nowhere in this article does it mention actual figures that Dayton is demanding and how those figures represent huge spending increases when we already have existing deficits that Pawlenty allegedly left behind.

    I think this simple question deserves an answer.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/08/2011 - 07:37 am.

    “Why isn’t the press asking the governor how he can ask for a 25% increase in state spending when we supposedly have a $5 billion budget deficit?”

    The press operates within certain parameters and they come with blind spots. I would very much like them to ask why he thinks a 37 billion dollar, or a 35.8 billion dollar budget is needed, and what cuts to the 34 billion dollar level mean. But that just doesn’t happen. Part of the reason for that is that government coverage comes from capitol hill reporters, whose beat is much more the conflict rather than what the conflict is about. These days, I don’t think has resources to do much reporting beyond that. When’s the last time the Strib did a major investigative piece?

  21. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/08/2011 - 07:47 am.

    “Nowhere in this article does it mention actual figures that Dayton is demanding and how those figures represent huge spending increases when we already have existing deficits that Pawlenty allegedly left behind.”

    Doug Grow, elsewhere on this website, did an excellent job unpacking some of these numbers. They aren’t that complicated. Dayton is asking for 35.8, the legislature is at 34. All numbers in billions. In the current biennium the state spent 34 billion, a number which includes the federal stimulus money, and money from the education shift. Republicans often don’t include that money, preferring to use the revenue number 30.2 as the amount the state is spending during the current biennium.

    As others have suggested, these numbers are meaningless unless placed in some sort of context. The context I would place them is in terms of what they state provides with the dollars it spends. Or I would look to what they tell us about the state, the fact that we are growing, and we are doing it on both sides of the ledger. Income as well as expenditures are both going up for reasons that are related. Republicans want to limit the conversation to the numbers themselves. They don’t want to talk about the losses in educational opportunity, the denial of health care, the increases in property taxes, all the results that would be the direct consequences of the budget they propose.

  22. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/08/2011 - 08:24 am.

    Beat reporting has a lot of limitations which politicians have gotten very skillful in exploiting. The natural tendency of beat reporting is to simply publish what each side says on any given issue. The reporter does this for several reasons. By simply reporting what folks are saying, the reporter lessens the risk of denial of access, the lifeblood of the beat reporter. Also, by quoting each side equally, the reporter lessens the risk of being seen as partisan or unfair.

    There are significant downsides to beat reporting however. Very often there is truth, and very important and relevant truth indeed, outside the scope of each sides talking points. The beat reporter finds it very difficult to put things in their reporting that the people he or she are covering are unwilling to say, even if they are the most important things to say. Also, IMO, the beat report is unsuited to dealing with the big lie. Politicians have learned that they can say the most outrageous things, and the beat reporter will report them without comment, incidentally giving them the credibility putting something in print naturally lends.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2011 - 09:02 am.

    //There are significant downsides to beat reporting however.

    Yes, recently here on Minnpost poor Mr. Nord wrote an article about a fight over open meeting requirements associated with the Legacy amendment. He was roundly criticized for focusing on the debate rather than what the debate was about. This is great example of the kind of “beat reporting” limitations Hiram is suggesting.

  24. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/08/2011 - 01:56 pm.

    I can be as critical of anyone of beat reporting and it’s limitations. But it’s also true that it’s not the job of any reporter to rewrite the Encyclopedia Britannica. Reporters work with limited time, limited space, and limited resources. I don’t think there has ever been a story written by a good reporter, that couldn’t have been longer or included more information.

  25. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2011 - 08:46 am.

    The function of true criticism isn’t to deride, and insult, it’s to improve. Few people laugh when their criticized, but if you care about what you’re doing you pay attention. It doesn’t take any longer to write 1,500 words on the substance of a disagreement than it does to write about the structure of a disagreement, that is assuming you’ve taken the time to find out what the substance is.

    I think the other problem with some reporting is that an assumption is sometimes made that readers are more interested in who’s winning, or may win, rather than who’s right or wrong. I like to play with the idea that this a toxic influence of a sports mentality. The difference in emphasis can make a huge difference in terms of content. If you’re covering who’s “winning” you’re asking participants what their next move is and documenting it. If you’re trying to figure who’s right or wrong you’re asking about rationale’s.

    You’ll notice that the coverage here on Minnpost and elsewhere focus’s on “movement” or lack thereof, as if it’s a game of some kind. Movement isn’t the point here. The government is going to shut down on July 1. What’s happening now is positioning for post shut-down advantage, and that’s about shaping public perceptions. Now the politicians will do what they do to influence perceptions but the press is supposed to provide information so a populace will be informed in a crises. The only important question here is whether or not we should raise additional revenue, or cut services in order to maintain some kind of spending “cap”.

    If you’re asking the important question you will be focused on what services will be cut, and what the effects of those cuts will be if you cap spending, and conversely what services will be preserved or created if raise additional revenue. People don’t what the budget number is, or how it’s arrived at, they want to how it’s going to affect them or not, and frankly I’m not seeing that analysis anywhere. There’s exhaustive analysis about the numbers, and eveyone’s moods, but very little information on how what the government actually looks like under the different proposals. Does anyone really care whether or not the budget will be $35.2 or $34 billion dollars? Or whether it started at $32 billion and went up to $34? I really don’t think so. I think what people want to know, and need to know is the difference between a $34 and $36 billion dollar government.

    It’s funny because a reporter covering the “movement” will have nothing interesting to report between now and the shutdown, it’s going to be boring and tedious, for everyone. If I was Minnpost for instance I wouldn’t even send anyone out to cover the meetings, it’s a waste of time, I can tell you right now what your going to end up reporting. I’d be comparing the substance of the different budgets and trying to get each side to describe pros and cons of their visions.

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