What Governor Dayton Wants for Christmas
By: Phil Krinkie
At this time of the year many of us are pondering what gifts may be waiting under the tree come Christmas morning. But in Governor-elect Dayton’s case, he is probably thinking more about what gifts he would like to receive from legislators in the upcoming session.
As Gov. Dayton sits in front of his fireplace preparing his legislative agenda for 2011, he needs to remember he made some lofty promises during the campaign. Dayton probably never gave much consideration to the notion that he would be serving as the state’s top executive with both the state House and Senate controlled by Republicans. For the first time in twenty years the Southwest corner of the capitol will be occupied by a Democrat! But on the other hand it will be the first time in 38 years that the Republicans will control the Minnesota Senate. This division of power will mean that Gov. Dayton’s previously stated legislative agenda will be met with great opposition. So as Gov. Dayton looks to see if there are any gifts under the tree from GOP legislators, he is likely to be very disappointed.
The decision on whether to fulfill Governor-to-be Dayton’s wish list for session 2011 will not necessarily be based on if he has been naughty or nice, but rather on how much money is in the state’s coffers.
First on Dayton’s wish list of course is a big fat tax increase, because it will be impossible to keep his campaign commitments without more tax revenue. Here the Republicans are more likely to give Dayton a lump of coal instead of his extra Christmas spending money. The new majority legislators are not going to take more money from hard working Minnesotans to grant Dayton’s desire to feed Minnesota’s bloated budget with a huge tax increase. Perhaps some Democrats will join Republicans to reject Dayton’s idea of jacking up the state’s income tax, based on what happened in the November election.
Another high priority item on Dayton’s wish list is of course an increase in education funding for both K-12 and Higher ed. The challenge with this request is that the state budget forecast shows a $6 billion shortfall. The reality is many programs will need to be reduced, so finding additional resources for education will be very difficult. Just like trying to find that popular toy before Christmas, its unlikely Dayton will find a big increase in funding for K-12 under the tree for this upcoming session.
While not mentioned on Dayton’s wish list, it seems as though all governors want a train for Christmas. After all, Gov. Ventura wanted a light rail train and Gov. Pawlenty wanted his commuter rail train. There is little doubt that Gov. Dayton would like a train too. He even wistfully hinted at the desire for a train during a press conference last week, when asked for his reaction to Wisconsin Governor Walker’s decision to turn down the train funding. He longingly reminiscing about his trips around the world and the remarkable rail systems he had seen in Chinaand Europe and said “those places are far ahead of the United States.”
But whether it’s a train to Duluth or Chicago I doubt there will be funding for a new train this year, unless it comes from his rich Uncle Barak in Washington D.C.
But there is one item on his Christmas wish list that Dayton will get. The state will receive approximately one billion in additional Federal health care funding to expand the state Medicaid health program for the poor. So thanks to federal taxpayers (oh yea that’s us as well), Governor Dayton will get at least one item on his Christmas wish list.
Going down the entire list of items Dayton wants from the legislature, it appears it will be a disappointing session for him. But, hopefully he will understand that just because you want to play Santa Claus doesn’t mean you get to be Santa Claus with the taxpayer’s money.