Why Minnesota? Possible state shutdown mirrors larger US debate
With tax revenues still low, state and federal budgets are tight – and across the nation, politicians are drawing lines in the sand.
The story has all the elements you're familiar with. Republican legislators determined to resist tax hikes. A Democratic chief executive casting himself as "meeting opponents halfway." And warnings that things could go terribly awry if the two camps can't reach a compromise – fast.Skip to next paragraph
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Yes, that sounds like Washington.
But it's also a description of capitol-dome maneuvering in Minnesota, which faces the prospect of a government shutdown if the clock ticks to midnight Thursday without a deal.
Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and Republicans who lead the state legislature entered a seventh straight day of budget talks late Thursday morning in St. Paul. The negotiations, following a six-month impasse over how to solve a $5 billion deficit, have so far failed to produce a breakthrough.
The 11th-hour talks echo events in the nation's capital, where President Obama suggested that members of Congress skip their July vacations and keep working if they can't reach a deal this week on funding the federal government.
The similarity between these two political rifts is more than just an interesting coincidence.
It's a sign that, for all the differences between state and national politics, state governments across the US share a common fiscal quandary with the nation at large.
And roads ahead have similar bumps. Whether in St. Paul or Sacramento or the halls of Congress, each major party is pushing hard for a solution that matches its own vision for the nation.
For Republicans, that means holding the line against tax hikes, even if that requires sharp reductions in spending. For Democrats, it means shared sacrifice that involves higher taxes on the rich – and sometimes others – along with spending cuts.
In some cases, the result is a game of political chicken like what's going on in Minnesota.
Republicans swept to power campaigning against tax and spending increases, while Governor Dayton won with a message of raising taxes on the highest earners.
Dayton's backers argue that if no deal is reached, voters will blame Republicans – and glean from the shutdown a visceral reminder of the many useful services the state government usually provides, from parks to schools and road-building. (Services deemed essential, such as police work, would continue during a shutdown.)