The Star Tribune wants its readers to know that no one is happy with the budget deal that ended the Minnesota state shutdown. No, really:
After weeks of crippling political deadlock, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders emerged in the darkened Capitol on Thursday to announce they had brokered a budget deal to end the longest state government shutdown in U.S. history.
The deal raises the revenue Dayton sought — $1.4 billion — but without raising taxes, which Republicans opposed. Instead, it reaches back to an earlier GOP offer to rely primarily on more borrowing from schools and from the sale of tobacco bonds. The House and Senate could return in special session to vote on a final budget as early as Monday or Tuesday. …
“No one is going to be happy with this, which is the essence of a real compromise,” he said as the deal was announced.
The Strib then gives a familiar pattern of equal quotes of griping from each side. They quote a couple of DFLers and a couple of Republicans complaining about this cut or that spending, and try to position the two sides as getting more or less an equal amount of pain. Don’t believe it — Dayton lost this round, and he lost it big.
First, Dayton could have had this deal six to eight weeks ago. The amount of spending in the new agreement is almost exactly what the Republican-led legislature passed in May, although shifted around a little. Dayton forced the shutdown by refusing to negotiate on the individual budget bills and refusing to act on them for six weeks — and vetoing them only after the legislative session ended. The only two reasons for Dayton to pursue the shutdown was to get his new tax hikes on higher-income earners and to get billions in more spending, and he failed on both counts. Democrats in the state are livid at Dayton’s capitulation after raising the ante so high with voters.
So why did Dayton capitulate? Some have offered half-joking explanations that when the shutdown threatened Minnesotans’ supply of beer and access to fishing this summer, Dayton got worried about his standing. That may have been part of it, but that’s not the whole story. This week, Dayton had started a planned tour of Minnesota to take his case to the people — sound familiar? — but got a frosty reception in this hot summer. Planned events had unexpectedly poor turnout, according to campfire chatter, and even Dayton allies like union members made their unhappiness with the standoff clear.
Nor is the actual compromise helpful to Dayton and the Democrats. The DFL (Minnesota’s Democratic Party) had been hammering Tim Pawlenty for shifting funds on a short-term basis from K-12 education in order to bring the budget into balance. The national party has made those attacks on Pawlenty in his presidential bid. Now, Dayton has agreed to the same exact shift in this biennial budget, which completely undermines the blame-Pawlenty PR campaign that the DFL used to excuse the shutdown.
Republicans may not have gotten everything they wanted out of the budget fight, but believe me, they’re not walking around in sackcloth and ashes this morning.