The Star Tribune’s Mike Kaszuba and Rachel Stassen-Berger report on the latest events in the Minnesota budget standoff. Having agreed to meet alone with the Republican legislative leaders in a marathon session this weekend to avoid a government shutdown, Governor Dayton introduced wrinkles that put the agreement in doubt by the end of the day. It’s an interesting story. As I read it, Dayton is making it hard for his friends at the Star Tribune to cover for him. He isn’t giving them much to work with.
Those trying to understand the issues involved might find the following summary offered by a friend to be of use. The total budget proposed by the legislature for the next biennium is approximately $34.2 billion. This is up from $32.3 billion currently spent. $34.2 billion is the amount generated by the current tax system based on forecasted economic growth, plus money carried over from the biennium that ends June 30. The Republican budget thus lives within our means. It requires no new money even though it is able to spend 6 percent more than before.
The legislature has provided three different offers to Governor Dayton in the last month. The first was the budget passed by the legislature, which Dayton vetoed the day after session ended at its constitutionally-required time. The second was an increase in spending to match the governor’s veto letters of Republican bills for K-12 education and for public safety and the judiciary. The third, offered this past Thursday, expanded the second offer and removed $300 million in tax cuts; $200 million was devoted to additional spending and $100 million held in a cash flow reserve. Dayton called these moves extremely disappointing, even though the $200 million was to fund his priorities. All three proposals live within our means.
Dayton has not provided a complete budget since the constitutionally-mandated one in February. (This was revised somewhat in March after the February forecast.) His “compromise” offer reduced the tax increase in his budget from $3.7 billion to $1.8 billion. He has yet to tell the legislature which spending included in his February budget he will forgo to bridge the difference between $1.8 and $3.7 billion.
Dayton’s previous unwillingness to negotiate with Republicans has been highlighted by his repeated requests for a mediator, including in his court filing over the shutdown. I think that this background is helpful to an understanding of the story regarding the apparently failed plan for talks between Dayton and Republican legislative leaders featured in the Star Tribune today.
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