An all-star group of Minnesota politicians has put together a bipartisan committee that has been charged with rapidly coming up with “a third way” to solve the state’s budget crisis and end the government shutdown.
Former Gov. Arne Carlson, former Vice President Walter Mondale and former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger are the movers and shakers behind the committee, which clearly is being formed with the blessing of Gov. Mark Dayton.
The committee will be announced at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday.
Group to include business leaders, finance experts
Members of the committee include a combination of business leaders, former legislators, former government finance officials, as well as current Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, who was an assistant commissioner under Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Co-chairs of the committee will be former DFL state legislator Wayne Simoneau, who served as commissioner of Employee Relations and later Finance under Gov. Arne Carlson, and former state Sen. Steve Dille of Dassel, a Republican who retired after the 2010 session.
Other committee members include:
• John Gunyou, city manager of Minnetonka, former Finance commissioner under Carlson and the running mate of Margaret Anderson Kelliher in her unsuccessful bid to be the DFL’s gubernatorial candidate last November;
• Jay Kiedrowski, former Finance commissioner under Gov. Rudy Perpich;
• Former Wells Fargo CEO Jim Campbell; and
• Former Medtronic Vice President Kris Johnson.
Committee told to move fast
The committee has two distinct charges: Move rapidly and don’t be tied to any of the parameters — such as no new taxes and a fourth income-tax tier — that bogged down negotiations and led to the current shutdown.
The Republican legislative leadership was to be informed of the committee’s formation late Monday afternoon.
It’s unknown at this time whether Republican leaders will buy into the idea.
It’s believed that the idea grew out of conversations Dayton had with Carlson and former Republican Gov. Al Quie in recent months. The DFL governor frequently talked to those two in his efforts to find a way to reach agreement with the Republican majority.
Carlson spoke briefly about the work of the committee in a conversation Monday.
His hope is that the committee can come up with “a third way” to resolve the dispute. This third way — which could include everything from budget cuts, to expanding sales taxes to establishing “blink- off” income taxes — might not be popular with either the governor or Republican legislators.
But such ideas, coming from an outside group, might allow both sides “to save face” and get government functioning again.
“We need ideas that are rational to the great middle ground of Minnesotans,” Carlson said.
He said that those involved in the project believe that “all Minnesotans are willing to share” in the process of resolving the deficit problem.
Coming to a rapid resolution is vital, the leaders of this movement believe. Rapid, in this case, means coming up with a framework as soon as Thursday.
Speed, they say, is essential because the government shutdown will not just cause inconvenience but will slow down the state’s economy.
Could state become national test case?
Beyond that, there’s a great concern among many leaders that Minnesota may end up as the “test tube state” in the national budget debate.
Carlson said he and others are concerned that there are national organizations with “bagloads of money” eager to get into the midst of the Minnesota budget debate. That, they believe, would do nothing but raise the level of rhetoric.
Those supporting this committee also hope that it will free up individual members of the Republican caucus and, to a lesser extent, DFL legislators to vote independently of caucus orders.
“All legislators have the obligation to represent their district and the state of Minnesota, not the caucus,” Carlson said.
At this point, the ex-governor said he has had no specific advice to Dayton on how to bring about resolution.
“It’s a bit of pickle,” he said.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.