Newspaper article

How Dayton, Senate DFLers and House Republicans Could Forge a Budget Deal -- and Avoid a Shutdown

Newspaper article

How Dayton, Senate DFLers and House Republicans Could Forge a Budget Deal -- and Avoid a Shutdown

Article excerpt

The end of the legislative session, May 18, is a little more than three weeks away. In the Legislative Standard Time zone, there should be plenty of working hours remaining for the DFL governor, the DFL-dominated Senate and the Republican-controlled House to agree on a budget.

But with Gov. Dayton "unbound," DFL senators not walking in lockstep, and a Republican House that needs to flex political muscle, the road to agreement may be as difficult to navigate as it was in 2011, when Dayton and the Republicans who then controlled both chambers forced a government shutdown.

Curt Johnson, who has led both the Citizens League and the Metropolitan Council, was chief of staff to Gov. Arne Carlson in 1994. At the time, Carlson, a Republican running for re-election, faced a similar distribution of power, with DFlers controlling the Senate and Republicans controlling the House. I asked Johnson, who I worked with in the governor's office, for his thoughts on bringing together irresistible objects and immoveable forces in the next few weeks.

First, Johnson said, acknowledge the reality that everybody needs something. "I'll preface what I'm saying that, unless I'm romanticizing the past, in the days when we were doing our jobs, there was a sense of the need to find common ground. My sense is, today, people on the right and left must take a stand -- even if it undermines progress, even if it stymies sensible solutions.

"If I were facing this today, I would try to find out: what is it that each side has to take home? They are going to have to compromise, so who has to have what?"

Tax cuts, transportation, and education are hurdles, Johnson said, but they are also opportunities.

On tax reduction, he said, Dayton should give a little -- and a little is about all that is affordable. "The Republicans have got to take credit for some reduction in taxes, although they cannot get as much as they want because they don't have as much money as they believe there is in the surplus. They count inflation on revenue, but not on spending."

Education is more complicated, Johnson said. …

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