Mark Dayton offers deal that could end Minnesota shutdown

at 12:24 PM ET, 07/14/2011


With the Capitol closed to the public, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton addresses members of the media outside his office on July 6, 2011. (Jim Gehrz - AP)
Minnesota’s record-breaking shutdown could be coming to an end. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) has offered to accept the Republican deal put forward on June 30 in exchange for a few conditions.

For 14 days, government employees have been furloughed, state parks have been closed, business licenses have been unobtainable.

The government shut down on the morning of July 1 when the Republican-controlled legislature and the Democratic governor could not agree on how to close a $5 billion budget gap. A deal was reached on all but $1.4 billion in spending.

Now, Dayton says he will accept Republicans’ proposal to cover the last of the gap by delaying $700 million in payments to schools and issuing $700 million in bonds on future tobacco company payments.

“If this gets resolved and gets Minnesota back to work in the next few days, then it doesn’t matter what people say about me,” Dayton said in a press conference at the University of Minnesota this morning.

Republicans are reviewing Dayton’s request now and have yet to respond.

In his letter, Dayton wrote that he would still prefer to raise taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans, but he sees that Republicans are not willing to budget on that issue.

“[D]espite my serious reservations about your plan, I have concluded that continuing the state government shutdown would be even more destructive for too many Minnesotans,” he wrote. “Therefore, I am willing to something I do not agree with — your proposal — in order to spare our citizens and our state from further damage.”

Dayton imposed three conditions for his acceptance.

One, that all other Republican policy proposals would be off the table for the rest of the year. GOP leaders had pressed for abortion and stem cell research restrictions, as well as stricter voter ID laws, as part of earlier talks.

Two, for Republicans to drop their demand for an across-the-board 15 percent cut in the number of employees in all state government agencies, which Dayton called “arbitrary.”

Three, that after the budget is finished, Republicans help pass a bonding bill of no less than $500 million. A “bonding bill” authorizes the state to sell bonds and then pay debt on those bonds in order to finance work on publicly owned buildings, property, and land. Dayton pushed for a $1 billion bonding bill earlier this year but got nowhere with the GOP.

Some lawmakers on both sides have already expressed reservations. ”Let's be clear. Governor did NOT accept’ the June 30 offer. He has simply attached new conditions to the June 30 framework,” tweeted state Sen. Dave Thompson (R).

“No way can I support this awful ‘compromise’ further tanking schools, deeper debt, kicking the whale down the road,” wrote state Rep. Mindy Greiling (D).

State Sen. Michael Jungbauer (R) told the Star-Tribune that he was concerned about the provision on dropping other policy proposals. . “If we don’t have any structural change, we’re going to be in this position – we’ve been in this position the nine years I’ve been here,” he said. “If he’s saying drop all structural changes, I don’t like that.”

On the other hand, four key freshmen Republicans appeared on Minnesota Public Radio shortly after Dayton’s announcement and were cautiously optimistic that the offer was at least the basis for a deal.

 
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