Key GOP Rep. Larry Howes says Dayton offer should end the shutdown

The deal that Gov. Mark Dayton presented to Republican leadership today likely was framed Tuesday at a coffee shop in St. Cloud.

At that time, the governor, with no staffers present, sat down, one on one, with Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, to “get a lay of the land.”

Howes, who defines himself as “an old-fashioned Republican,” had been invited by the governor to this meeting. (Nonethess, it was Howes who paid for the grilled cheese sandwich, “because the governor was only carrying a credit card. … besides, I told him that Republicans tip better.”)

The deal that Dayton offered Republicans this morning likely will end the shutdown, Howes said.

“This [the Dayton offer] is very close — if not a done deal,” he said.

Howes admitted that there will be hardliners on both the Republican and DFL sides of the aisle who may have a tough time with parts of the deal.

“In the end, it will have to be bipartisan,” Howes said. “They [DFLers] would look ridiculous if they didn’t help out.”

Rep. Larry Howes
Rep. Larry Howes

One of the key elements of the proposal is that Republicans drop their demand that the state workforce be cut by 15 percent.

Howes said he has spoken with the creator of that 15 percent reduction idea, Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina.

“He’s assured me that he’s ready to work in ways that the governor can accept,” he said.

Howes said he believes that Downey is willing to slash that workforce reduction idea in half — and make it palatable in other ways to the governor.

“There is such a thing as compromise,” Howes said. “We have to be adults.”

Howes hasn’t been speaking only with Republican legislators. He said that he was in a conversation with Sen. Tom Bakk, the minority leader, at the time Dayton was releasing his offer.

“Sen. Bakk agrees with me that this is going to be tougher [to pass] in the Senate than it is in the House,” Howes said.

In his meeting with the governor, Howes made it clear that he respected — though disagreed — with the governor’s position that a fourth-tier income tax was needed to bridge the budget gap.

Howes explained to the governor that he had campaigned on a promise not to raise income taxes.

But, he said, he’s never opposed new revenue, nor has he opposed new taxes in general.

“I never said anything about tax on cigarettes or anything else,” Howes said of his pledge.

He also said that he told the governor that back in January he had figured the two sides would ultimately settle at about $35.2 billion.

“I wrote that number down and put it in my desk drawer,” Howes said.

Then, Howes spoke of an area in which he and the governor agree: The importance of a bonding bill.

Howes, who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee, said that he recently presented House Speaker Kurt Zellers with a bonding bill that would be “less than $600 million.” (Dayton, in his most recent offer to Republicans, says he must get Republicans to agree on a $500 million bonding bill.)

Laughing, Howes said the bonding bill would place all projects in Walker.

He was quick to add that he was joking; that the bonding bill would create projects — and presumably construction work — across the state.

The first big benefactors would be a number of projects on MnSCU campuses, at colleges across the state. Additionally, his bonding bill would at least partially support a new baseball park in downtown St. Paul. That park would become home to the minor-league Saints but be used as a venue for a wide variety of other events as well.

At this point, Howes seems as unexcited about raising revenue through the shifts and tobacco bond as Dayton is. He’d especially like to see the size of the shift reduced.

In his letter [PDF] to Republican leaders, Dayton said he would be supportive of “alternative sources of revenue,” presumably including racinos at the two metro area racetracks.

Ultimately, though, Howes is convinced that the Dayton letter is the framework that will end the shutdown.

He also hopes it becomes a national model for dealing with the situation in D.C.

“If we get this done, I hope Washington takes a close look,” Howes said. “Compromise is the adult thing to do.”

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/14/2011 - 12:58 pm.

    What’s not to like. This allows the GOP to sustain their no new taxes pledge. They also have the opportunity to continue the policies of former Governor Pawlenty. Which includes; borrowing from the school districts, shifting and deferring payments and leveraging the tobacco fund.

    There does not appear to be much space between the former governors “budgeting techniques” and Mr. Dayton’s proposal to continue them.

    Pawlenty 2.0

  2. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/14/2011 - 01:17 pm.

    I hope so, Rep. Howes. Thank you for being more reasonable than many of your fellows.

  3. Submitted by chuck holtman on 07/14/2011 - 01:22 pm.

    To paraphrase Mr Howes, then, the Governor’s capitulation is a good starting point. Maybe taking just a bit more from the weakest and most vulnerable will get the job done.

    “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    It’s become trite, but only because it is so apt.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Cagle on 07/14/2011 - 01:26 pm.

    I concur, Mr. Schulz. And I am not surprised Senator Bakk would say that it’ll be tougher to pass in the Senate than in the House.

    Senator Dave Thompson of Lakeville chimed in earlier that this would probably be a no vote for him. The Star Tribune reported he still wanted the social policies included. I have to ask how that would balance the budget, create jobs, and keep government from growing?

    Other than State Rep. John Kriesel of Cottage Grove, is there any sanity left in the Minnesota Republican Party?

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/14/2011 - 01:30 pm.

    I predict the Republican leadership will reject it. I point out that this deal could and should have been done during the regular session but the Republicans refused to negotiate. We’ll see.

  6. Submitted by Deb Reed on 07/14/2011 - 02:14 pm.

    BOOOO…. this is not what we want for Minnesota! Sorry, I would have hung tough with Dayton. New construction? New baseball parks? Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Now where are the taxes on the rich? Where are the ideas to throw out some of the stupid things we fund here and how much are they cutting from their wages and benefits??

  7. Submitted by Deb Reed on 07/14/2011 - 02:16 pm.

    Support our schools and the vulunerable!!! Support the middle class and poor!

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 07/14/2011 - 03:25 pm.

    I don’t think the Republican leadership has a lot of control over their members. And this deal wasn’t popular with many Republicans when on June 30th. What I will be saying to my legislators is that they shouldn’t support it unless Republicans bring enough votes to the table to pass it on their own. If Sen. Thompson wants to stand in the way, he should feel free to do so, but the price he is going to have pay is the acceptance of responsibility for continuing the state shut down.

  9. Submitted by C.A. Arneson on 07/14/2011 - 04:33 pm.

    Here’s a suggestion for raising funds. Allow all property owners in Minnesota the opportunity to buy the mineral rights to their property. The resulting revenue could either go into the state’s general fund or directly to the county in which the property is located.

  10. Submitted by Lynn Wehrman on 07/14/2011 - 04:38 pm.

    I agree with Foster and Udstrand’s prior comments. The offer won’t be accepted. It will be pushed to maximize the party goals.

    The Republicans have learned a valuable lesson that their unreasonableness will be rewarded as long as they demonstrate, and advertise through the media, that the do not care what happens to the state and its citizens. Dayton’s only fault is that he isn’t inhumane or selfish enough to follow suit. He knows he’s the only adult at the table here–a pretty lonely position at that.

    Congratulations, MN GOP. You’ve just birthed a new form of governing that is about getting what you want, not looking out for the good of those who cannot afford vacation homes and investment accounts. The wealthy suburban Christen right wing in the western and northern metro suburbs will no doubt keep you in office and we will see this pattern repeated nationally as the middle class sinks into poverty.

    Time to move to Norway.

  11. Submitted by John Olson on 07/15/2011 - 06:07 am.

    I’m 100 percent in agreement with Hiram on this one. A combo platter of the Thompsonite Republicans on the right andthe DFLers on the far left *could* derail this deal. I don’t think Zellers has control of his caucus like previous Republican Speakers have had. As Majority Leader, Matt Dean has been out in Lala Land and really has not contributed much of anything to the discussion.

    One has to wonder if the Republican leadership in the House and Senate is now vulnerable to being replaced from within. The Senate has certainly done that before. (See Senjem, D. for an example of this.)

    The last, big variable left is redistricting. Since the metro area now has the majority of Minnesotans residing in it, if the Republicans get what they perceive to be favorable boundaries, what we are seeing now may very well become the rule, not the exception.

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