Friday, July 01, 2011

Into the abyss

And so the shutdown begins. The GOP controlling the Minnesota legislature has demanded complete capitulation to their agenda and if they don’t get it they’re perfectly willing to drive off the cliff. This should be viewed as educational given current goings on in Washington D.C. as things portend badly both for the ongoing debt limit discussions, and the next budgetary cycle in general.

Yesterday, Monica Davey wrote in The New York Times about how Minnesota may be ungovernable. University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs is quoted:

It’s a very sad day for Minnesota. It’s a state that had a well-earned reputation for being well governed where, at the end of the day, politics were done in a fair and efficient manner. And it’s now on the cusp of ungovernability. There’s a new ethic here that compromise is weakness.

Well… let’s be clear about a few things. The GOP has not come to govern, they have come to burn down the house. With billions of dollars separating the legislature from the governor in final budgetary negotiations, they offer $200 million in adjustments as a compromise while demanding it be deducted elsewhere, and pretend they have given up the keys to the ranch. Meanwhile Governor Dayton has reduced his budgetary request by over $2 billion and wisely refuses to go any lower.

MNPublius has a good graphic which shows what’s really going in with the respective negotiating positions and how much each side in the debate has offered. The Minnesota GOP refuses to allow even the smallest tax increase even upon those making over $1 million a year – despite the fact that the wealthiest pay a significantly smaller share of their income in state taxes than do the poor and middle class.

Republicans refuse to negotiate in good faith

As it became apparent a compromise would not be reached the “cone of silence” over negotiations collapsed and the details of competing offers are not pretty. The Star Tribune reports part of the GOP offerings included over $700 million in deferred payments to Minnesota school districts – this on top of the roughly $1.5 billion in “deferred” payments we know the schools will never see, and issuing “tobacco bonds”, adding to the state’s debt without clear benefit as with infrastructure, etc.

Talks also broke down because of Republican insistence on inserting policy provisions – voter ID requirements, abortion restrictions, etc. – into what should be clean budgetary bills.

Presidential wannabe Tim “hard times in the land of” Pawlenty presided over Minnesota’s desperate race to the bottom. He kicked the can down the road time and time again, unwilling to demonstrate the leadership and political courage necessary to undo the damage he initiated as majority leader in the Minnesota House. Minnesota used to be a national leader in health, education, job creation, innovation – now we’re middle of the pack, and only because the GOP hasn’t turned us into Mississippi. Yet. But they’re still trying.

Kudos to Governor Mark Dayton, who’s turning out to be a lot stronger and smarter than any of us anticipated, on standing firm and protecting Minnesota’s heritage of effective, responsible government.

The state government is now running with a skeleton crew – just a few essential services such as prisons and the state patrol are operating. It will be interesting to see how long this lasts, but let there be no confusion. Negotiation and compromise require two parties EQUALLY willing to participate. Thus far the GOP proposals have been a joke. They must do better. Minnesota demands no less.

(Cross-posted at Greg Prince's Blog.)

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