The shutdown began early — and ugly.
At about 10 Thursday night, two hours before the final settlement deadline, Gov. Mark Dayton addressed the media.
He ridiculed a last-minute proposal made by Republican legislators, who about 9:30 asked the governor to call a special session and pass a “lights on” piece of legislation that would have kept government going and given the two sides more time to negotiate an issue they’ve been negotiating since January.
“I take it as a publicity stunt,” the governor said of the Republican proposal.
Republican legislators, who were listening to Dayton in the back of the room, started to hoot and boo.
Dayton looked to the back startled.
No one had ever heard legislators from any party boo a governor while he was speaking in such a somber circumstance.
It was almost a “you lie” moment — and one that showed how, in the end, anger was winning out over any chance of settlement.
Dayton did not comment about the hoots from the Republicans. And Republican legislative leaders claimed they were not in the room, so they had no comment about the behavior of some members of the House and Senate caucuses.
“This is not what you should focus on,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, when asked about the outbursts.
But the symbolism was hard to ignore.
Despite all the talk — especially from Republicans — that throughout a day of negotiations the two sides were close, in the end it appears they weren’t close at all.
Not only were Republicans rejecting Dayton’s demands to place a tax increase on Minnesota’s wealthiest but they also were loading up many bills with policy language that had no chance of winning Dayton approval.
According to a number of sources, Republicans were demanding that Dayton accept the redistricting map that Republicans had drawn. Additionally, they had included language that would have put strict limits on such things as stem cell research into other bills.
Koch admitted that there were “policy differences.” But she insisted those could have been hammered out had the governor agreed to a lights-on bill that would have kept government running while the two sides negotiated.
As usual, Republican leaders also continued to say that the governor was blowing opportunities to “limit the pain” Minnesotans will feel because of a shutdown by signing off on a number of bills, that could have financed everything from K-12 education to transportation programs.
Dayton said he rejected this partial approach because it allowed Republicans to “cherry pick.”
That phrase drew more hoots from Republican legislators listening to Dayton.
But Dayton is convinced that the more bills he signed, the less chance there would be to get what he considers a reasonable Human Services bill passed.
Dayton did say that he had offered to cut his fourth-tier income tax to those 7,700 people in Minnesota who make $1 million a year or more. (He didn’t say what rate he would have needed to capture a meaningful amount of revenue.)
But Republicans, he said, rejected even that.
Zellers didn’t deny that.
But he said it doesn’t matter whether “you tax one small group or the whole state,” the problem isn’t revenue it’s spending.
And so this round ended, the two sides still about $1.4 billion apart.
Given the tone of things as the evening ended with first Dayton, then Republican legislators, leaving the Capitol at about 11 p.m., it’s hard to see compromise on the near horizon.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.