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Minnesota Government Shutdown Comes to a Close

Minnesota brought an end to their government shutdown yesterday. On the surface, the talk is that Gov. Mark Dayton gave up on a balanced solution to the budget gap there, by abandoning higher taxes. However, as noted by Phoenix Woman, the intricacies of the budget deal show that Dayton did get something for his trouble:

In a way, each had lost a political friend: Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton gave up his long-held demand that the richest Minnesotans pay higher taxes; Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch gave up their party’s strongly held stance of keeping state spending to no more than $34 billion in the next two years.

But in giving up what they fought for all year, they reached a framework of a budget deal that could end a shutdown entering its 15th day today.

It appears that the new cuts are actually fund shifts, moving the problem into the future. In addition, Republicans give up all of their policy riders and government stays larger than they requested. A 15% cut to the state workforce will disappear. And there’s some stimulus involved in the form of a $500 million road bond (which is a very large stimulus for a state of that size).

Maybe there are better solutions out there. But in exchange for giving up on taxing 7,700 millionaires in Minnesota a little extra, Dayton got some things. That’s known as a compromise, and Dayton is in a materially worse position than at the federal level, with both chambers of the legislature governed by Republicans. What’s more, it’s a two-year budget plan, the last one Dayton will have to negotiate with this particular legislature. AND, because it was a deal with Republicans in the legislature, Democrats won’t be voting for it, putting the entire burden on the opposition.

But James Hohmann wants to read this as a Republican vanquish, and apply it to the debt limit debate.

There are national implications from the deal: if congressional Republicans draw the lesson from this imbroglio that the president might buckle on the debt ceiling debate if they stand as firm as the Minnesota GOP did for the last two weeks, the likelihood of default increases.

That doesn’t really get this right. Republicans have the burden of voting for the proposal, which could get them in big trouble with their base. Spending increases from their desired number and a stimulus package is included. They lose every social policy. The moral here is that both sides gave up something and politically Republicans have to vote for it and defend it. That’s not the lesson House Republicans really want to learn.

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David Dayen

David Dayen