Opinion: Unwillingness to compromise led to harmful state shutdown

The unfortunate but unavoidable shutdown of Minnesota government left in its wake a damaged economy, 22,000 disrupted state employees’ lives and doubts that Minnesota is a state that works.
This shutdown of the government will be debated for years, because some say it was unnecessary, and resulted in a short-term settlement and did little to fix the structural budget deficit.
After examining the shutdown’s consequences and the final settlement, the ECM Editorial Board has concluded the uncompromising positions on both sides flawed the process that led to an unavoidable shutdown.
The board agreed that the disruption to the lives of Minnesotans and particularly the 22,000 state workers, and harm to Minnesota’s economy were not worth the shutdown.
It’s true that the final settlement closely resembles the Minnesota Legislature’s June 30 offer, and critics of the governor claim he alone could have avoided the shutdown.
The governor got more money mainly for education and human services, while the Republican majorities in both houses succeeded in not raising state taxes, though agreeing to spend the extra $1.4 billion.
Make no mistake that hidden under the radar will be around $2 billion in real serious cuts to government services
The tragedy is that a new cast of state leaders chose the old route of shifting $700 million more from K–12 education and borrowing $700 million from the state tax tobacco settlement.
Further, the ECM Board believes a better budgeting process must be developed to avoid a shutdown from ever happening again.
While both political parties were unable to compromise, the ECM Board commends Gov. Mark Dayton for agreeing to a deal he didn’t agree with that stopped the shutdown when it appeared it was headed for a longer term.
Gov. Dayton succeeded in getting $1.4 billion more mainly to protect the state’s safety net. He, however, abandoned his campaign pledge to boost the tax rate of the top 2 percent of those who made $1 million or more a year.
Republicans, who control both houses, compromised and agreed to spend more than $34 billion they said was in the “checkbook.” They did live up to their pledge of not increasing taxes.
The governor can claim some satisfaction in removing from the deal the divisive social issues, adding a $500 million bonding bill and removing the 15 percent reduction in state employees.
Losers were the 22,000 state employees, businesses that depend on state licensing and regulation, such as Canterbury Downs and Running Aces, and the state’s tourist image.
As observers look over the wreckage caused by the shutdown, they must realize there has to be a better more disciplined process in developing and approving a budget.
There are those on both sides who will argue the settlement is bad, if for no other reason the structural deficit of billions of dollars still exists, casting doubts that the Legislature can grapple with this problem.
There has to be a better way to run state government. Here’s the $64,000 question: Next year, will voters remember the shutdown and look for candidates who can forge alliances and forget the partisan politics in the interests of doing what’s best for the state and its citizens? Only political time will tell.
ECM’s Editorial Board intends to get involved in the discussion of finding a balance of cutting spending and raising revenues to make the budget whole and to restore a state government that works. (Editor’s note: This editorial is a product of the ECM Editorial Board. The Star News is a part of ECM Publishers Inc.)

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