While both Gov. Mark Dayton and the GOP leaders looked dejected as they announced Thursday’s budget deal, it could be Dayton’s legislative colleagues who feel the least happy with the outcome.
DFL lawmakers admit that Dayton, as the state’s top official, personally felt the impact of Minnesota’s two-week government shutdown, but the framework budget deal he brokered with Republicans is tough for any Democrat to swallow.
“This guy, more keenly than any person in this state, feels the effects of a shutdown,” said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul. “None of us can understand the strain he feels as governor.”
“I think I’m very reflective of our caucus in sympathy with the governor,” said Rep. Mindy Greiling, one of the most outspoken DFL House members. But, she added: “I would be surprised if a single Democrat voted for [the compromise] and if they did, I’d have to wonder, ‘Why?’ “
Roughly half of the House DFL caucus participated in a conference call Thursday morning, and Greiling said it didn’t seem like members supported the deal. Another call is scheduled for Friday morning.
After more than three hours of negotiations Thursday afternoon, Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch trudged out of the governor’s office. They announced a “framework” deal that would borrow even more from K-12 education and frontload Minnesota’s tobacco settlement payments through bonding to float the roughly $1.4 billion state spending increase that Dayton has been fighting for to prevent cuts to “core services.”
In doing so, Dayton abandoned his proposed income tax hikes on the wealthy, ones that he says would lead to a more progressive and fair Minnesota.
To Democrats like Greiling, an education crusader and lead DFLer on the House K-12 finance committee, the deal leads Minnesota a mile in the wrong direction. She called the 60-40 state payment shift – the largest in at least recent Minnesota history – “historic and astounding.”
On top of the one-time fixes riddling the deal, some Democrats aren’t convinced Republicans will remove the medley of policy provisions that populate their budget bills.
“They could still kill the deal by wanting social policies,” Greiling said before the announcement came. “They could still kill that deal with overreach. Their pattern seems to be when they get what they want, they ask for more.”
Dayton and the GOP leaders reached a framework deal based on the governor’s letter stipulating they abandon policy provisions – such as cuts to integration aid and special education funding and a 15 percent state workforce reduction by 2015.
But there was a worrisome note for some DFLers, too, when Koch mentioned that Health and Human Services reforms were still on the table.
“I don’t want policy. I want a budget,” Hausman said.
Bonding plan far from certain
There is still uncertainty about the $500 million bonding bill Dayton required in his budget offer. The governor backed off the strong language included in his letter after the framework deal had been brokered Thursday afternoon.
Likewise, Koch and Zellers were mum about whether borrowing legislation – which requires more votes to pass than other measures – would be able to pass their respective chambers.
“There will need to be some Democrat votes in both bodies for the bonding bill,” Zellers said. But, according to the governor, the DFL minority leaders in the House and Senate haven’t pledged the votes necessary to pass such legislation.
“I will do my very best to get Democrat votes for the bonding bill,” said Dayton, who proposed a $1 billion effort early this legislative session that went nowhere in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Hausman, the DFL lead on the House Capital Investment Committee, said it could be difficult to move the proposal along because no lawmakers drafted substantive bonding legislation this year.
Will she be involved?
“Yes, I would certainly like to make the case,” Hausman said.