They knew long ago that they didn’t agree
One doesn’t have to read between the lines to see that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders never really put together a budget deal that both sides could live with. While Dayton signed most of a $46 billion budget on Tuesday, he vetoed funding for the Legislature, apparently hoping he can force lawmakers to change their minds about several tax items he does not like. The Republican leaders, for their part, say they are done negotiating with Dayton, and likely will sue to have the Legislature funded. They say Dayton’s action is clearly a violation of the separation of powers in the state constitution.
Both sides have been playing political games. The trouble is, pettiness is problematic because actually running a state is not a game. The budget funds real agencies that affect real citizens. Tax policy helps or hurts real people. Policy decisions affect everything from whether illegal immigrants can get driver’s licenses, to whether Minnesota students will have someone in their classroom to teach them math or science.
As the session drew to a close, Dayton and lawmakers agreed on a broad deal. Too broad, apparently. As specifics were fleshed out in the Legislature’s final budget on Friday, special interests jumped in again to pressure Dayton, who, of course, also has his own preferences. And thus we have his decision to defund the Legislature.
We think it all has been too messy. Both sides knew coming into the session that they would have to compromise or shut down the government. Compromise is not fun or well-liked these days, but it was inevitable. As in previous years, getting started earlier on shaping a final deal would have gone a long way.