Dayton: OK, now I'm ready to talk

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton pronounced himself ready to negotiate over the state budget five days into a shutdown:

innesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday morning that he plans to call GOP legislative leaders to see if they are willing restart negotiations with him later this afternoon and revealed he’s been courting moderate Republicans to end the government shutdown.

On the fifth day of the budget crisis, the Democratic governor said he and Republican legislative leaders are still far apart on lots of specifics. …

“I’m willing to talk about anything, listen to anything, because we have to get this resolved.”

Missing in the article: any mention that Dayton has refused to negotiate with legislators for six weeks.  The Republican-led legislature passed the required nine budget bills in mid-May; Dayton vetoed them last week without ever bothering to negotiate on any of them individually.  Dayton’s vetoes came on the last day of the legislative session, which meant that Republicans had no time at all to redraft the bills for Dayton’s signature anyway.  Now they can’t meet without Dayton calling a special session, which Dayton has refused to do, even though there are no special rules for such a session that give an advantage to either side.

Nevertheless, Republicans leaped at the chance to conduct more talks.  No sooner did the MPR interview take place than the GOP arranged a 2:30 (CT) meeting at the governor’s office with legislative leaders — presumably Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers.  Republicans in both chambers stayed in the capitol building Thursday night for a sit-in to push Dayton for a special session, which Dayton rejected as a “stunt.”  The GOP has been pleading for good-faith negotiations for weeks, to no avail — at least not until now.

What changed?  State Representative Doug Wardlow suspects that Dayton has belatedly realized that the shutdown damages his base most:

Asked whether he worries that allowing the government to shut down instead of raising taxes could cost him the election, Wardlow said he thinks Republicans will come out better in their showdown with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

“It’s a winner for us because Gov. Dayton’s core constituency — state employees, rank-and-file union members — I don’t think they can afford a shutdown as well as Gov. Dayton can,” he said as he walked the parade route. “And it’s unfortunate that he sacrificed them for what he thinks is politically expedient … We’re very well positioned now.”

The Politico story misrepresents Wardlow’s position as opposed to both tax cuts and spending cuts, which is simply ridiculous.  Wardlow wants spending cuts, but got overruled in the final budget presentation, which increases biennial spending from just under $31 billion to over $34 billion.  Wardlow has asked Politico to correct its article, but it’s a good example of the media mangling of this story as an example of Republican intransigence.  Republicans actually met Dayton halfway on spending increases, expecting Dayton to negotiate in good faith and at least sign those parts of the budget where the two sides largely agreed … and instead, Dayton decided to pull his own political stunt and shut down the government.

Which will get corrected first — the media reporting of the Minnesota standoff, or the shutdown itself?  It’s a race to last place so far.