Irked GOP legislators consider Rep. Winkler’s ‘cave in’ comments ‘fightin’ words’

There are elements of the state government showdown that smack of a lot of adrenaline and not much sense.

Republicans, for example, apparently have themselves in a tizzy over words uttered and tweeted often by Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

Winkler frequently has noted, in tweets and one early morning floor speech, that Republicans will “cave” to the wishes of Gov. Mark Dayton.

According to Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, those are seen as “fightin’ words” by the Republican majority.

“It’s like you have two teams going to the World Series or the Super Bowl and one team starts doing a lot of talking,” said Howes, one of the handful of moderates in the House caucus.

Rep. Larry Howes
Rep. Larry Howes

Howes, a seven-termer, predicted Winkler’s words will be posted in every Republican meeting room at the Capitol when Republican legislators march on St. Paul Thursday for what is expected to be a public relations stunt, not a special session to end the budget stalemate.

According to several members of the Republican caucus, their leaders have told them to come to the Capitol Thursday to show the public “we’re ready to get our work done.” But unless Dayton calls legislators to St. Paul for a special session, the GOP show would be meaningless.

Howes admits he’s irritated by Winkler’s words. They’ve inspired him to “dig in” in opposition to any Dayton effort to raise income taxes of the state’s highest earners. If people such as Howes are “dug in,” there’s little chance of the governor getting an income tax increase, at least in the near term.

The “cave in” remarks also have prompted a response from the True North blog, which also believes GOP legislators will hold firm.

Winkler laughs at the idea that his words might somehow put more spunk in the GOP.

“If a comment on twitter is what they need to rally around, they have serious problems,” Winkler said. “It doesn’t seem to demonstrate a lot of maturity.”

Winkler said he first made the “cave in” comment in a floor speech.

“I gave a speech in one of those all-night sessions,” Winkler recalled. “It was 6:30 in the morning and I said something like, ‘We don’t need to be here, this isn’t accomplishing anything, eventually you will have to cave in.’ ”

Winkler said he went on to give his “cave in” phrase context. DFLers, he noted, had been caving in to Gov. Tim Pawlenty for four years.

“The governor is going to win,” Winkler said he told House members. “You might as well face that reality.”

Rep. Ryan Winkler
Rep. Ryan Winkler

If that’s reality, it’s pretty clear Republicans aren’t ready to face it yet.

But interestingly, unlike some of his colleagues, Howes doesn’t necessarily oppose all forms of tax increases.

Howes, for example, said some members of the caucus have talked about “a nickel a beer” tax. And he wouldn’t necessarily oppose that.

“Will anybody who goes up to the bar for a beer really notice if they pay an extra nickel?” Howes wondered.

Like so many, Howes is frustrated by the negotiating process.

“It’s so silly,” he said. “There are so many ways around this.”

Many agencies, Howes said, could remain open because they are funded by fees that have little to do with the general fund. There’s no effort, he said, being made to “minimize the pain” that will be caused by a shutdown.

Like many others, Howes, a longtime supporter of bonding projects, had hoped that a substantial bonding bill, opposed in session by the GOP, would help bring the two sides together during these last-minute budget meetings between the governor and legislative leaders.

But, so far, that’s not apparently happening, Howes said.

What is happening is that Republicans are getting ready to use Winkler’s words to get themselves all fired up.

“If they want to put things on the walls,” said Winkler, “maybe they should put up things like, ‘Do what’s best for Minnesota.’ “

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 (27)

  1. Submitted by Nate Pete on 06/29/2011 - 10:36 am.

    “If they want to put things on the walls,” said Winkler, “maybe they should put up things like, ‘Do what’s best for Minnesota.’ ”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  2. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 06/29/2011 - 10:43 am.

    If Howe’s “dug in” because of those comments, then he’s neither a (a) moderate or (b) a grown-up.

  3. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/29/2011 - 10:52 am.

    People who are credulous enough to believe in the literal truth of the Biblical book of Revelation can’t possibly be afraid of a little ole government shutdown. Our job creators must be protected and GOP legislative butts and jobs must be protected from the zealots who run the party

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/29/2011 - 10:54 am.

    Is it true that Amy Koch told Mark Dayton to “knock this chip off my shoulder, I dare ya”.

  5. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/29/2011 - 11:53 am.

    While I think it was immature of Winkler to be tweeting “fightin’ words” to the MN-GOP, I also think it’s immature of the MN-GOP to strut around like a bunch of cockerels about it. (Somehow I can envision certain of the MN-GOP strutting around repeating themselves like Foghorn Leghorn, complete with overpuffed chests and self-righteous anger.) Winkler’s probably right, and the public elected Dayton to sign the budget that he campaigned on. The MN-GOP forget that they were elected to create jobs, not a no-tax budget, and certainly not an impasse.

  6. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 06/29/2011 - 11:57 am.

    “Will anybody who goes up to the bar for a beer really notice if they pay an extra nickel?” Howes wondered.

    Oops, watch out. Tony Sutton will notice, as will Grover Norquist. That’s just the type of reasonable thinking that will get you the lable of “RINO” and a tea-party endorsed challenger from within the party.

    Of course, if the standard is “will anyone really notice”, there are some UnitedHealth executives who won’t notice missing nickles until a few hundred thousand go missing; but I forget- they’re off limits.

  7. Submitted by Sue Halligan on 06/29/2011 - 11:59 am.

    I wish Mr. Winkler would put a lid on it. Every experienced parent knows that you don’t persuade recalcitrant children by belittling them – it just makes them more defiant. Since our GOP legislators seem to have a lot in common with kids afflicted with oppositional disorder, lay off already! Unless he’s hoping for a shutdown too.

  8. Submitted by Mary Ann McCauley on 06/29/2011 - 12:57 pm.

    If a business operated like the Republicans with their “no new taxes” mantra, the business would say,”We’ll be profitable if we stop selling more products and just cut expenses.”

    Are there no business majors in the Legislature who understand that you have to work both sides of the balance sheet?

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/29/2011 - 01:01 pm.

    “Tizzy” is right. It’s so funny when these Republican who have been crying about big government for 30 years complain that the shut down is gonna be too big. Government must finally be just about the right size if we can’t shut it down anymore without anyone noticing eh?

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/29/2011 - 01:38 pm.

    The people who need government to stay open don’t vote republican anyway. Dayton’s calling the bluff of people who have no reason to bluff. Oh well.

  11. Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/29/2011 - 01:43 pm.

    “Will anybody who goes up to the bar for a beer really notice if they pay an extra nickel?” Howes wondered.

    Why do the teetotalers and those who prefer wine and cocktails deserving of a free ride?

  12. Submitted by Thomas Eckhardt on 06/29/2011 - 02:00 pm.

    “Will anybody who goes up to the bar for a beer really notice if they pay an extra nickel?” Howes wondered.

    Once again, the Republicans prove that if pushed they will agree to a middle class tax increase in order to avoid taxing the rich. Yes, the rich do buy beer, but the largest part of the money raised by this type of tax increase is going to come from the middle class.

    If it’s ok to raise taxes for the middle class, it’s ok to raise taxes for the rich.

  13. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 06/29/2011 - 02:35 pm.

    Which party had the majority when taxpayer funds were voted to be used to build a baseball stadium for a billionaire?

  14. Submitted by Nancy Gertner on 06/29/2011 - 02:54 pm.

    Will the GOP Majority leaders “cave” to the governor so a compromise can be reached, and the Legislature can finish their work of funding state government? It’s looking like they’re more concerned about looking like “sissies” than looking incompetent and shutting down the state. So it seems they are like Dr. Seuss’s Zax stuck in their tracks, and may just stay there until North Dakota builds a road over them and makes Minnesota a territory of North Dakota. By which time they will have become totally irrelevant.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/30/2011 - 08:11 am.

    //By the way, why isn’t anyone complaining that the Governor insists that a deal be reached in secret before he will call for a special session to pass the secret deal?

    Because the governor is demanding no such thing. He’s simply refusing to waste everyone’s time and money on a special session to nowhere.

  16. Submitted by Jim Greg on 06/29/2011 - 03:03 pm.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s ok to raise taxes on the working guy’s beer, but not ok to raise taxes on a very few, very wealthy people who wouldn’t even miss the money.

  17. Submitted by Lynn Wehrman on 06/29/2011 - 03:29 pm.

    I have no idea what happened to the Republican party I supported when I voted for the first time as a young woman, for Ronald Regan, in 1981. The people “representing” this party today have lost all of their integrity, and as Mr. Winkler stated, their maturity.

    The real question here should be when can we find some grown-up Republican legislators to take their place? Come on, conservative Minnesotans, surely we can vote more effectively than this.

  18. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/29/2011 - 05:02 pm.

    Unfortunately, while conservative Minnesotans /might/ be able to vote more effectively, the state and national GOP will not let them beyond a certain level in government. Republicans are vetted by the state and national GOP and determined whether they will be supported (including funding for campaigns) or not (probably even actively suppressed). To some degree, both sides are not directly chosen by the electorate, but moreso the GOP. That Tony Sutton should have /any/ say in what actually happens in the MN legislature is a small point of proof.

  19. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/29/2011 - 05:26 pm.

    “The people who need government to stay open don’t vote republican anyway.”

    It’s going to be fun watching conservatives find out just how much state government does for them. It’s not surprising though. The people who get the most from governments think they get nothing:

  20. Submitted by will lynott on 06/29/2011 - 08:29 pm.

    At one level, I’m with Howes on this. With a heavy duty negotiation going on, and given the demonstrated immaturity of the opposition, poking the bear is not going to advance your cause, and the cause is what counts, isn’t it?

    That said, the sordid history of conservative taunting makes me less than sympathetic to the party who made it an art form. Wonder what Howes would have made of the caustic snarkiness in the Congressional cafeterias after Saint Reagan was elected? Did he condemn the Willie Horton ads? Does he chastise his colleagues when they call our Governor “erratic” and allude to his personal issues, which, by the way, appear to have vanished?

    I would encourage Winkler to cool it, but what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  21. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 06/29/2011 - 09:07 pm.

    I watched Representative Wardlow (Tea Party) and Winkler at a town hall meeting last week in St. Louis Park. The dichotomy could not have been more evident. Wardlow squirmed the entire time and could barely control his emotions. If Wardlow leaned forward in his chair any more he would have leapt from it.

    Meanwhile, Winkler was passionate but relaxed. Precise and knowledgeable. Do we want to be governed by reason and calm, or unrestrained emotion?

  22. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/29/2011 - 10:01 pm.

    Increase State spending by 6% or 12%. It is that simple. 6% and no shutdown, or go for 12% with a shutdown. Who’s all in?

    By the way, why isn’t anyone complaining that the Governor insists that a deal be reached in secret before he will call for a special session to pass the secret deal? The Dems were outraged that their bills weren’t getting hearings during the legislative session, but now they aren’t even in the secret meetings. Governor Dayton, Senator Koch, and Rep, Zellars are going to make the decision for the State. Don’t you wish that YOUR representatives had a say?

  23. Submitted by Hugh Gitlin on 06/30/2011 - 06:10 am.

    @Neal Krasnoff:

    Both parties were in the majority in 2005 when the Twins baseball bill was passed. There was a GOP majority in the house and a DFL majority in the senate.


    I don’t think state park patrons or track patrons are just DFLers.

  24. Submitted by David Greene on 06/30/2011 - 09:23 am.

    @Tom (#21)

    Please refrain from repeating the 6%/12% lie. The Republican budget that the Governor vetoed was $400 million less than last biennium’s budget. It was truly an all-cuts proposal.

  25. Submitted by Quin Huntley on 06/30/2011 - 09:47 am.

    mega-libaral writers like Doug Grow is probably why Dayton donates financially to Minnpost. is there any wonder they are completely on Dayton’s side?

  26. Submitted by will lynott on 06/30/2011 - 11:51 am.

    #16 “Which party had the majority when taxpayer funds were voted to be used to build a baseball stadium for a billionaire?”

    Better question: which party is in the majority now as the legislature is about to approve the expenditure of public money for a Vikings stadium?

    #21, the governor is not insisting on meeting in secret. That was a republican idea that the Governor agreed to.

  27. Submitted by will lynott on 07/01/2011 - 07:59 am.

    I assume Howes was first in line to condemn Hoffman and Garofolo for their scurrilous tweets.


    What a surprise.

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