In Minnesota, we are engaged in an epic budget battle between a highly liberal and highly medicated Democratic governor who is contending with newly crowned Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. A state government shutdown is looming, scheduled to kick in on July 1. How goes the battle?
Acting as the media adjunct of Governor Dayton’s office, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and lead political reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger have generally guarded the relevant facts against disclosure. Every day the Star Tribune runs stories that advance Governor Dayton’s agenda of spending and tax increases in one way or another. Republicans, incidentally, have agreed to a spending increase to be financed out of the revenue produced by our current high-tax structure. Dayton wants more: more spending and more taxes.
Given the dominance of the Star Tribune it is difficult for those of us in Minnesota actually to understand what is happening or the issues underlying evens. It is a challenge even for those of us who are political junkies. We are nevertheless trying to understand and pick up the slack left by the Minnesota media. The issues matter to us personally. They also replicate in small what is happening on the national stage, with this difference. At the state level the parties have to come up with a balanced budget. They can’t print and borrow money.
A friend provides this set of points that I think provide a useful key to understanding what is happening here:
- The legislature has made three proposals to Governor Dayton since his last complete budget. He has rejected all three offers.
- The governor’s refusal to accept the legislature’s offer is based on his stated desire for an income tax increase on successful businesses and individuals.
- The governor’s tax proposal includes taxes that hit all income levels, not just the top 2 percent, by estimates of the nonpartisan Department of Revenue.
- A shutdown is unnecessary. The Republican budget provides additional spending and meets Minnesota’s needs.
- Accepting the governor’s proposal puts Minnesota on an unsustainable path of expenditure increases that will push more and more taxes onto the middle class in future budgets. We cannot afford it.
Here is the dirty little secret of the budget battle, out there for anyone willing to turn over a rock or two to find out, or willing to draw inferences from circumstantial evidence. Governor Dayton wants a government shutdown, and he wants it to hurt. He calculates that the shutdown path will maximize his advantage and cause his legislative opponents to cave. He believes he can “capitalize on the chaos.” The worse, the better.
Have Minnesotans gained a basic understanding of the issues despite the best efforts of the Star Tribune? I wonder. Yesterday KSTP 5 Eyewitness News released the results of the latest SurveyUSA Poll of 600 Minnesota adults. Ninety-three percent of the poll respondents were registered voters, six percent were just adults, and one percent were “not sure” whether or not they are registered to vote, although they were pretty sure they are adults. Impressive: 99 percent of the poll respondents were certain they either are or are not registered to vote! In Minnesota, we have much to brag about.
KSTP comments on the poll results: “When it comes to solving the state deficit, voters appear to be divided. That is the finding from the latest exclusive KSTP/SurveyUSA Poll.” For Republicans, I think “divided” is good. Indeed, it is almost unbelievable. Here are the results reported by KSTP, with the margins of sampling error omitted in all but one case, followed by my comments:
1.) Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mark Dayton is doing as Governor?
15% Not Sure
Comment: The 42 percent approval rating represents a steep drop from the governor’s previously measured approval ratings. He cannot be happy with the result. Over at the Star Tribune, Rachel Stassen-Berger will just have to work harder.
2.) Do you approve or disapprove of the job the State Legislature is doing?
12% Not Sure
Comment: The governor is doing better than the legislature, but I don’t have previous approval ratings to compare the 23 percent against. I would imagine this is par for the course, but I don’t know.
3.) Going forward, should Minnesota’s government increase spending? Decrease spending? Or continue to spend about the same amount as it has been?
27% About The Same
5% Not Sure
Comment: Spending is going up. The argument is over how much. The failure of the media to focus on the heart of the argument between the governor and the legislature hurts here. Republicans in Minnesota have the better of the issue with the public, as they do nationally.
4.) By how much should spending be decreased? 0-3%? 4-6% 7-9%? Or by 10% or more?
27% 10% Or More
9% Not Sure
Comment: Epic fail here on the part of the Star Tribune.
5.) Would making cuts to state services be acceptable? Or unacceptable? To you?
8% Not Sure
6.) Asked of 46 who think spending should be increased/Margin of Sampling Error for this question = ± 14.3%
Where should additional revenue come from to pay for increased spending? From higher income taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans? From higher income taxes on all Minnesotans? A higher state sales tax? Gambling revenue? Or something else?
62% Higher Taxes On Wealthy
10% Higher Taxes On All
6% Higher State Sales Tax
17% Gambling Revenue
0% Not Sure
Comment: These 46 poll respondents represent the core readership of the Star Tribune.
7.) If the state government shuts down, who is most responsible? The Governor? Republican legislators? DFL legislators? Or the Governor, Republican and DFL legislators equally?
20% Republican Legislators
7% DFL Legislators
50% All Equally
2% Not Sure
Comment: Rachel Stassen-Berger, call your office.