It took six months of arguing and 19 days of shutdown, but the legislature's special session finally passed 12 budget bills, with the last of them passing at around 3:30 a.m. this morning.
The bitter end of the longest state government shutdown in modern U.S. history was as partisan and personal as everything that came before it.
As the special session approached, and then soared past midnight, the spirit of compromise captured in yesterday's "handshake agreement" between Dayton and Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers fell away. When they debated the $35.7 billion budget that Dayton will wake up to find on his desk, legislators and political agents took one last chance to lay blame and point fingers.
After a recess to allow legislators to learn a bit more about the bills they'd be voting on, the legislature quickly passed the first six bills, including a higher education bill that cuts 10.5 percent from current funding levels to the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU system, and a transportation bill that cut about $50 million in funding to metro area transit.
DFL Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis described the transportation bill as a "microcosm of what we see in the rest of the budget."
"It's shifting, it's using gimmicks," Dibble said. "It's papering over a problem in the absence of adopting a larger more comprehensive budget."
The bonding bill that Dayton insisted be included was passed at $497 million, and includes a new science and nanotechnology building for the U, $42 million for an engineering lab at St. Cloud State and $56 million for transportation upkeep.
During the house debate on the tax bill, Minority Leader Paul Thissen gave a speech that lambasted Republicans for protecting the rich and refusing any targeted tax increases on wealthy Minnesotans. Dayton held out for those tax hikes for two weeks, until finally giving up the issue last Thursday to end the shutdown.
"You didn't do your job because you shut down our state," Thissen told Republicans. "You didn't do your job because you didn't protect the people's interests, you protected the richest special interests. You didn't do your job because you didn't solve the problem, you begged, borrowed, and stole."
Never one to miss a chance to fire back, state GOP chair Tony Sutton aimed a late-night tweet at the Minority Leader.
Wow - Paul Thissen & the do-nothing DFL have a lot of gall. Just sit on their butts & collect a govt paycheck while GOP does all the work
Sutton's dig might seem like a cheap shot, but will have some resonance. The budget that funds the state for the next two years is essentially a compromise between Dayton and the Republicans, with Democratic legislators cut out of the process.
If Dayton signs the budget this morning, the state will finally begin to awaken from its nearly three week slumber. The state's shutdown-preparedness website, BeReadyMn.com, will begin posting information on the shutdown's end, including recall notices for the 22,000 state employees who've been out of work since July 1.
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