Lessons from the Minnesota shutdown: Was it even necessary?
The Minnesota shutdown ended Wednesday after the Democratic governor and Republican Legislature came to a budget deal. But neither side was declaring victory.
Minnesota state government is once again open for business following a series of bills signed into law Wednesday that are designed to eliminate the state’s $5 billion budget deficit.Skip to next paragraph
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Despite marking an end to a nearly three-week standoff between Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and Republican lawmakers in both houses, neither side is claiming a direct victory. Governor Dayton told reporters Wednesday he was “not entirely happy” with the budget but referred to it as “the best option that is available.” Similarly, Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel referred in a statement to the budget as “not the most ideal to anyone.”
The dissatisfaction on both sides of the aisle points to the broader, national problem of the two parties finding compromise in the aftermath of midterm elections that ushered in many hard-line tea party Republicans. In Minnesota, the impasse suggests that the two state parties need to think twice before shutting down the government to get what they need, experts say.
“This was an accomplishment neither party wants credit for. It’s extraordinary: you have both parties doing what they had to do and not feeling proud of it,” says Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. “We have to find a way to get parties closer to the point where they can find some resolution, even if its far from ideal."
In signing the bill, Dayton abandoned his plan for a tax increase on the state’s wealthiest residents. At the same time, he agreed to the Republican plan of raising $1.4 billion by increasing the amount of deferred school payments and borrowing from future tobacco settlement payments. For Republicans, compromise came from removing all social-issue policy changes from the budget bill and eliminating a 15 percent state workforce cut.
Just because both sides settled on a deal doesn’t mean the bickering will end. The borrowing measures and uncertainty about how much the deficit may grow in coming months means that the fighting is more or less postponed until the 2012 election cycle.