Over on the editorial pages of the Star Tribune, Katherine Kersten looks at some of the circumstantial evidence suggesting that the current government shutdown is the consummation devoutly wished by our highly medicated Governor Mark Dayton. My friend Kathy writes:
Dayton — and the DFL legislators who support his plan — needed a dramatic way to persuade fiscally conservative Minnesotans to support their big-spending ways.
A government shutdown could do the trick, if it were broad-based and painful enough, and if the public could be convinced that Republican legislators had refused to compromise and so were to blame.
Dayton could count on Alliance for a Better Minnesota — a 501(c)(4) organization funded by public unions and über-wealthy Dayton family members — to saturate the airwaves with ads pushing a grossly distorted version of the budgetary facts.
Within hours after the session ended, ABM announced it would spend up to $1 million on such a campaign.
Did Dayton intentionally try to provoke a shutdown? We can only say that if he had wanted to, he would have acted precisely as he has in recent months.
Throughout the budgetary process, Dayton refused to give legislators the details they needed to take his priorities into account in crafting their own budget bills. He refused to negotiate on individual bills until he had seen them all.
The Legislature sent its bills to Dayton six weeks before the session ended, but he frittered away the time for negotiation. He vetoed all nine bills at the end of the session, so legislators had no chance to rework them to address his concerns.
As shutdown loomed, Dayton refused to resolve small differences and sign major portions of the budget, such as K-12 education, judiciary and public safety, on which agreement was close. The Pioneer Press called this “hostage taking,” not “compromise.”
But Minnesotans need to understand the bigger picture here. Behind Dayton and out of the limelight, DFL legislators have been playing for much higher stakes than a $1.8 billion spending increase.
In recent weeks, DFL minority leaders Paul Thissen and Tom Bakk have been glued to Dayton’s side throughout budget negotiations. Why? If Dayton — with the help of DFL legislators — could parlay a shutdown into a DFL legislative takeover in 2012, the political payoff for the party would be huge.
Please read it all.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey comments here.