After two weeks of gridlock and three hours locked in his office, Mark Dayton and Republican leaders emerged yesterday with a deal to end the state shutdown. The governor forced a tight grin as he stepped to the microphone, announcing the deal in a downbeat tone.
"We are committed," he said, "to working together over the next few hours and couple days to get this nailed down so we have it ready to go to a special session as soon as possible, which will be very soon."
After that uninspired statement, Dayton went for symbolism, offering control to the Republicans 30 seconds into his most important press conference as governor. [jump]
To end the state shutdown, the state is taking money from little kids and cancer patients.
By accepting the Republicans' offer from June 30, Dayton is abandoning the strongest position he'd held as governor: Tax the rich to raise state revenues. Instead, the state will delay paying $700 million to public schools, and cash in $700 million in leftover funds from the state's 1998 lawsuit against the tobacco companies.
In his letter to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, Dayton told the Republican leaders he was "willing to agree to something [he does] not agree with -- your proposal -- in order to spare our citizens and our state further damage."
The letter also took one last shot at the state GOP, writing that it had rejected raising income tax on "the richest 2%, or even the richest 0.3% of all Minnesota taxpayers."
But it's not all bad for Dayton. Before he would would go along with their plan, Dayton said the GOP had to agree to three conditions:
- Republicans can't attach any policy to the state budget: When it goes to a vote, the bill will be about money and money alone.
- The GOP has to let go of its plan to cut 15 percent of employees at all state agencies.
- The legislature has to pass a $500 million bonding bill for construction projects, which could include $51 million for a new physics and nanotechnology building at the University of Minnesota, and $20 million for a stadium for the St. Paul Saints.
It's a little bit like an out of work gambler took out a bank loan, then borrowed money from his parents the same day. Come on seven, Minnesota needs a new pair of shoes and a physics and nanotechnology building!
The legislature could reconvene for a special session to pass the budget as soon as Monday, meaning that the 22,000 laid-off state employees would only have missed a single two-week pay period.
"No one is going to be happy with this, which is the essence of real compromise," Dayton said.
So ends the longest state government shutdown in modern U.S. history.