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.
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, http://www.looktruenorth.com/limited-government/daytons-shutdown/16949-rep-winkler-on-dayton-shutdown-republicans-will-cave.html 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.”
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.