The art of negotiation

The leaders of the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are doing something they rarely did in last year’s stalemate at the Capitol: talking to each other. But Republican leaders told MPR’s Midday today that nothing much has changed.

“I don’t think so,” Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem said. “As we go home and as we survey the landscape, from our position we want to see jobs and we want to see prosperity in Minnesota and that’s a question of how you get there,” Sen. Senjem said.

“The $1.2 billion (deficit) … 70 percent came from personal income. That means someone lost their job or they took a big cut,” Rep. Kurt Zellers, the House minority leader, said.

Host Gary Eichten asked whether there are enough spending and service cuts to balance the budget. “I’m not going to suggest it’s going to be easy, but I think we have to,” he said, naming human services and — possibly — K-12 as targets.

Last week, DFL leaders suggested cutting the number of political appointees in the administration as an area to cut. “It’s cheap political shots,” Zellers said.

Zellers and Senjem disagreed on wheether a “budget gimmick” of delaying payments in state aid to schools will be eventually repaid. Senjem there’s a chance that won’t be. Zellers said schools shouldn’t have to “eat” the cut.

Today’s meeting comes on a day of poor economic reports, leading more analysts to suggest we’ve ended one recession, and are about to head into another.

  • Sam

    Bob, while acknowledging that both parties in the MN legislature have behaved like petulant children in the past few years, I’m curious to know what you think DFLers should do when faced with Pawlenty’s 8-year refusal to even contemplate income tax increases?

    I understand that the GOP has a longstanding opposition to high taxes, but it seems to be a relatively recent development that a governor would consider it politically viable to simply veto any tax increase, at any time, regardless of situation and the impact the veto will have on communities in his state. Don’t Pawlenty’s actions qualify as a wholesale attempt to dismantle Minnesota’s decades-old governing philosophy, and if so, why is this never reported?

    This is all coming off as far more partisan than I intended – I’ve got no more love for Larry Pogemiller than I do for Marty Seifert, and the DFL obviously needs to start leading and stop simply trying to win battles – but as a moderate voter, I’ve been extremely frustrated by the governor’s my-way-or-the-highway position on the budget. Am I overreacting?

  • Bob Collins

    I was asking myself the same question as I was listening and what I came up with is this: Give Pawlenty whatever political cover he needs to get what the DFL wants.

    For example, call it a fee, call it a surcharge, call it whatever, but don’t call it a tax increase and dont’ crank out the press release about it.

    At some point, winning a political battle has to be less important than what’s best for the state. That’s what both sides have yet to exhibit (although from what I hear up there, there was some enthusiasm from both sides after today’s meeting).

    Last year’s session was, let’s face it, a joke. It took months to get a budget proposal, the DFL went out on listening tours. They weren’t without weapons of their own, including defunding Pawlenty’s priorities to set up negotiations. And then there’s always a government shutdown. Awful? You bet, but there’s the old saying about bringing a knife to a gunfight.

    And awful lot of time was spent last year by both sides, trying to box the other side into a corner.

    On the other, I’m also warming to the idea of everyone slipping away for a beer, leaving the media and the PR machines behind, and getting to know each other. Part of the problem with politics now is many personally dislike the other. That’s just got to change.

    //Don’t Pawlenty’s actions qualify as a wholesale attempt to dismantle Minnesota’s decades-old governing philosophy, and if so, why is this never reported?

    That’s what Judge Gearan said and I think that was pretty reported. And if you enter “unallotment” in the search box above, you’ll find plenty of coverage on people’s views on the subject. None of them mattered until the judge made her decision.