Here we are again: The Governor wants a game of chicken at Minnesotans’ expense

We nearing the end of the 2015 legislative session and Governor Dayton and the DFL Senate the GOP House and are miles apart. 

The Republicans staked out a position early of giving back the surplus.  This isn’t exactly radical given that we are forecasted to bring in budget surpluses for years to come because of the tax hikes of 2012-3.  

But as we’ve been repeatedly told, this was “just a starting point.”  Tax Committee Chair Greg Davids said as much and Speaker Kurt Daudt has said that he’s willing to split the difference with the Governor.  And that is just the Tax Bill.

But Republicans caving that quickly on major items didn’t give the Governor what he really wants.  What he really wants is a Government shutdown.  Everything that has happened tells us that. 

First there was backtracking from previous positions: gas tax-no gas tax-gas tax;  suddenly more money for education.  The lines in the sand keep changing. Impromptu schedule changes, including for non-urgent national campaign activities that require BOTH the Governor and Lt. Governor to be present?  The Governor is acting like he has no deadline because he has no deadline. 

Why would he want that, you ask?  Because he believes that he can get everything he wants with a shutdown.  No need to compromise at all. 

The guy who can get up and walk away from the table is the guy who wins the negotiation.  And as usual, that guy is the Governor.  As he’s told us, he isn’t running again for Governor, he’s got nothing to pay back, nothing to lose.   

In fact, if we repeat the 2012 cycle, he could actually win.  History has shown that if there are any negative consequences to a government shutdown, the media amplifies them and Republicans in the legislature usually get the blame.

In particular, the House Republicans will get more than their fair share of the blame.    There is some evidence that public opinion about the shutdown played a role in the Republicans losing the House and Senate in 2012.  And now Senator Bakk gleefully tells us that he believes that current polling says the same thing. So Bakk, too, wouldn’t mind a shutdown.

This is probably truer for Democrats inside the I-694-494 beltway; nevertheless, if this is the likely outcome of a shutdown, Governor Dayton may be looking forward to the midterm elections when he could have the Senate and House DFL controlling the legislature again.

Some DFL senators may feel queasy about the polls and unintended consequences, but for Governor Dayton the shutdown is an unalloyed good.  Either way, he can have his cake and eat it too. 

And what are the consequences for the people of Minnesota?  One is political; that despite Public Service Messages and School policies we see that bullying works.  That there is no cooperation where there is no accountability and the Governor has repeatedly told us that he is not accountable.  He even refers to state agencies as “my” agencies and the commissioners employed by the state as “my” commissioners.”   For Dayton, l’etat c’est moi.

Another is economic. Shutdowns aren’t good by any measure.  Oh yes, they may ironically prove that most of us aren’t affected in the slightest by a shutdown of state government.  But some businesses are affected because the government has made it impossible for them to operate without direct and continued government intervention.  There are people in nursing homes and other institutions whose well-being is dependent on the state doing its job.

And so the shutdown has become a kind of hostage taking, where the side that believes it has the most to lose will not hold out for long.  As we’ve seen before, the Governor simply doesn’t think he has a lot to lose and may think he actually benefits from a shutdown scenario.  The only question is, how much will the Republicans in the House give up to prevent it?