Last week, three Republican senators refused to even hear questions on their budget proposal from Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, the former chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
Sens. Mike Parry (R-Waseca), Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), and Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) would not yield the floor to answer Cohen, who presided over the Senate's finance committee for six years.
Cohen looked baffled. He reminded his colleagues that when he'd been in the hot seat, he'd always answered questions from his Republican colleagues. But try as he might, no one would give him the time of day.
"Madam president, that's one way to do it," Cohen said tersely.
With their new majority, the Republican senators were able to push forward their partial solution to state's $6.2 billion budget deficit last week. The deal includes cutting $830 million out of the upcoming budget and $125 million from the current one. The budget bill passed 37-27, on strictly partisan lines--not a single DFL-er supported it. The Senate bill is similar to one House members have already passed.
The next step is for Gov. Mark Dayton to present his budget on Feb. 15. After that, lawmakers will negotiate for a final budget.
We put in calls to the three Republican Senators, but none called back by our deadline last night.
Cohen is still shocked by the behavior.
"I've seen people refuse to yield before, but only as a joke--then they'll answer," he says. "The only inference that you can draw is that they had no idea what was going on and didn't want to make that clear."