Monday, July 18, 2011

Not a Lot New to Report. It's Monday and I thought there was supposed to be a special session. Alas, no such luck and the legislative sausage machine seems to have blown a fuse. And, truth be told, I half-expected things to transpire in this way. There's a ton of information to process and a lot of bargaining remaining.

In presenting his budget earlier this year, the Governor came with pretty much an "as is" budget. He did some cutting, but he also had a fairly hefty tax increase included in his figures. The Legislature passed an "all cuts" budget, which the Governor almost completely rejected. Further, in his veto messages, he pointed out items that he objected to without suggesting alternative measures. This leaves a lot of negotiating to be done.

Many of the provisions to which he has objected are simply non-starters for the Governor and are items that simply aren't going to become law. I can think of several pieces of the Legislature's education package to which the Governor objects and is probably deeming non-negotiable (vouchers, elimination of integration revenue) and my guess that a similar pattern is happening in other budget areas.

I can't say whether this happened or not, but Blois Olson in his Morning Take column reported that Representative Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), chair of the House Education Finance Committee, blew up a bit during his negotiations with Governor's staff on the education finance bill. Both the House and Senate passed sweeping education reforms this past session and it's my guess that Garofalo's fit of pique (provided the reporting was accurate) likely centers around the administration's reluctance to accept a very abbreviated list (perhaps none) of these reforms.

Headway is being made, as two bills--Public Safety and Transportation--appear be put to bed, but that leaves another 8 to go.

Here is the latest from the StarTribune and MPR on the special session:

Making Sense of it All. I thought the StarTribune opinion section summed up things nicely yesterday (Sunday) with articles by Lori Sturdevant and D.J. Tice. Lori Sturdevant zeroed in on the need for re-design of how state services are delivered, especially in view of the fact that whoever controls the Legislature after the 2012 elections is likely going to be staring at a deficit and will have even less ability to "move sideways" as this Legislature has.

Tice covers the political fallout and points out that everyone is on a slippery slope after the shutdown, but that the fact that Dayton has three-and-a-half years left on his while the entire Legislature must stand for election in 2012 to accommodate re-districting gives the Governor a bit of an edge. That would be the conventional wisdom, but I don't think anyone comes out of this mess unscathed and my guess is in the more conservative parts of the state, Governor Dayton voodoo dolls may be flying off the shelves.

From my vantage point, the only thing that is most disappointing is that decision-makers chose to punt once again instead finding a middle ground that was palatable to all parties, which is easy for me to say because I'm not in the trenches.

Monday's MinnPost also did a good job of outlining what lies ahead both in the immediate and short-term futures. Here are three stories that outline some of the issues that are holding things up.

Jeff Stevens Guntzel story on what happens if LGA is cut (which it will likely be):

Tom Petty Soundtrack. Rumor has it that Tom Petty isn't too happy about Michelle Bachmann using his song "American Girl" as background music at her rallies. But it's not just Congresswoman Bachmann for whom a Tom Petty song might be appropriate these days. Petty has always been one of my favorite artists (I saw him 4 or 5 times live) and his stable of songs contains a number of titles that are quite descriptive of the Minnesota government shutdown.

Let's go over the list in Kasey Kasem fashion with these short-distance dedications of Tom Petty songs going out to the following folks:

"Breakdown" to describe the shutdown itself.
"I Won't Back Down" for legislative leadership and the Governor.
"Free Fallin'" to describe more than a few government programs.
"The Waiting" describing what most of us lobbyists have been doing.
"Even the Losers" for those interests that didn't fare so well.
"Into the Great Wide Open" for Minnesota as it heads into a new set of challenges.
"Don't Do Me Like That," for just about everyone at some time during the past session.

Tom, you just have to quit writing such snappy songs with such malleable titles.

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