The barely-concealed contempt with which Republicans and DFL lawmakers now treat each other in St. Paul came to a logical conclusion last night.
Both sides failed to reach a budget agreement to address the state's $5 billion in red ink by midnight, and state government shut down.
Tens of thousands of public employees will now have to do without paychecks, and all manner of government services are being curtailed, with the exception of a few ordered to stay open by a judge.[jump]
As it has all along, the impasse came down to two competing visions of dealing with the budget deficit. Either cut some spending and then tax the richest Minnesotans a little bit more to make up the difference, as Dayton was elected to do. Or cut state spending on programs that Republicans regard as wasteful but that Democrats view as essential, as GOP legislators were elected to do.
Here's part of what Dayton said in a speech last night, during which Republicans could be heard hissing:
"They would prefer to protect the richest handful of Minnesotans at the expense of everyone else, even at the expense of a state government shutdown. As one Republican legislator told a member of my staff, "We're friends with some of those guys. Instead of taxing their friends, they would prefer very damaging cuts to health care, K-12 and higher education, state and local public safety, mass transit, and other essential services."
Here's GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers:
"We will not saddle our children and grandchildren with mounds of debts, with promises for funding levels that will not be there in the future," he said. "This is debt that they can't afford. It's debt that we can't afford right now."
And we'll all be treated to a public relations war as lawmakers go home and explain this debacle to their constituents.
The near lock-step discipline with with Republicans simply refuse to consider finding new revenue beyond $34 million already budgeted as been impressive, as the ship of state now runs aground.
But the battle probably reached an all-time low last night when GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo used Twitter to deliver a snark attack worthy of a middle school smart ass:
We were even treated to the bizarre sight of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who left Minnesota with the $5 billion shortfall, flying home from his presidential campaign so he could stand in front of reporters and insist that insist he had nothing to do the festering mess we're all standing in.
"I applaud the Republicans for standing strong," he said, while the rest of us are left holding the bag.
UPDATE #1: You still have to pay your taxes. [Hat tip: MPR]
The Minnesota Department of Revenue will continue to process tax payments during the state government shutdown. All tax laws and deadlines remain in effect, and taxpayers are reminded of their legal obligation to file returns and pay all taxes when they are due to avoid penalties and interest.
UPDATE #2: The confidential negotiation documents have now been published. [Hat tip: Mary Lahammer]