The play’s the thing

Yesterday I wrote that the Star Tribune was spinning the breakdown of negotiations between Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders on Dayton’s behalf. 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 did not not support the story’s blatant spin. The breakdown appears to have resulted from Dayton’s backtracking on a previous offer that took tax increases off the table. Today’s Star Tribune story supplies some missing context from the paper’s big shutdown story yesterday.

The Star Tribune has made itself part of Dayton’s public relations apparatus. Why has Dayton refused to call the legislature back into session to fund government operations until a deal is reached? If the Star Tribune has reported Dayton’s answer to that question, I have missed it. Dayton obviously wants the shutdown to inflict maximum pain in order to increase his political leverage over Republicans. That’s a story that Star Tribune has somehow missed in its wall to wall coverage of the shutdown.

The Republican Party of Minnesota has released a statement that sheds some light on the political conflict here. Alluding to Hamlet, the statement makes some points that the Star Tribune has overlooked:

To shut down or not to shut down that was the question at the state capitol Thursday night. With Hamlet-like decisiveness, Gov. Dayton agitated over abandoning his demand for a tax increase, but at the end of the day his erratic obsession with increasing taxes proved stronger than his expressed concern for the welfare of Minnesotans; Gov. Dayton shutdown down state government.

“What a piece of work is Gov. Dayton,” said Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton. “On the campaign trail he pledged NOT to shut down the state over a tax increase. Tonight he broke that promise, making this shutdown his shutdown.’”

“Gov. Dayton called the Legislature’s balanced $34 billion budget ‘barbaric’ and ‘harsh,’” Sutton added. “Tonight he imposed an unbalanced $0 budget on the state despite the willingness of Legislators to pass a clean, two-page temporary funding bill.”

Sutton noted that while Legislators worked to find common ground to fund the governor’s priorities within projected state revenue of $34 billion, Gov. Dayton teetered between the welfare of Minnesotans and his own ego and obsession with a tax increase. In the end, ego and personal obsession won the day.

“Something is rotten in the state of Minnesota,” said Sutton. “Gov. Dayton doesn’t want to live in a state that doesn’t confiscate more private sector resources that will chase jobs out of Minnesota,” added Sutton. “Well, I think it’s a sad state of affairs when the governor of our state inflicts maximum pain on the residents of Minnesota to score political points.”

“The bottom line,” said Sutton “is Gov. Dayton has telegraphed his intention to shut down state government from day one of the session. Negotiations were never about what was best for Minnesotans; the play was the thing with Gov. Dayton feigning an attitude of compromise when in reality he had no intention of signing a budget bill that was not complete capitulation on a tax increase, increased spending and an unprecedented growth of government.”

“Republican legislators have been working to save jobs, it now appears Gov. Dayton was working for a shutdown,” stated Sutton.

“Gov. Dayton underestimated the will of the Minnesota Legislature,” Sutton said. “And he’s underestimated the resistance of the majority of Minnesotans to increased government spending. The question is can the governor come to grips the reality that the people are not on his side.”

The Republican Party notes that Dayton and the Legislature agree on 95 percent of the budget, but that Dayton has chosen to shut down the government rather than sign the bills that both parties agree on. Attentive readers will understand by this point why that would be the case.