The big news in Minnesota today is the coming of the state government shutdown as of midnight last night. The shutdown is the result of a budget battle between Minnesota’s highly medicated Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and a Republican legislature led by House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Zellers and Koch have done a fine job standing their ground and holding their troops together so far — despite the best efforts of Rachel Stassen-Berger and her colleagues at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who are pulling out all the stops for Dayton.
Expressing their displeasure with Dayton’s refusal to call a special legislative session, House Republicans staged a symbolic sit-in in the House chambers last night. Stassen-Berger et al. commented: “House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, calmly led the theatrics.” Dayton couldn’t have said it better himself.
Stassen-Berger et al. quote Zellers in their page-one story today: “Our guys, obviously, are very comfortable with where we are.” Throwing a total of four reporters on today’s story, the Star Tribune depicts the breakdown of talks between Dayton and the Republican legislative leaders as possibly deriving from Republicans having asked Dayton to accept “controversial policy positions the Republicans pushed for this year, including photo ID requirements at the polls and abortion restrictions.” The Star Tribune cites what appears to be a Republican “offer sheet” saying the policy adoptions were in exchange for “new revenue in a compromise offer.” I have no idea what that means.
Seeking to understand the dynamics of the negotiations leading to the shutdown, I sought out a copy of the parties’ various positions as revealed in their most recent written offers. Here they are. I am sure these final four written offers were as readily available to the Star Tribune as they were to me, and they do not support the story’s blatant spin. As I read them — please read them yourself if you have any interest in what is happening here — the breakdown appears to have resulted from Dayton’s backtracking on a previous offer that took tax increases off the table.
In any event, Dayton has rejected the Republicans’ offer to provide for funding to keep the government running while the parties continue negotiating. Why would Dayton do that? As we have held since we started covering the budget crisis, the dirty little secret of the story is that Dayton wants the shutdown. It’s a secret that the army of political reporters covering the story for the Star Tribune has faithfully kept.