The state government shutdown may well be over, thanks to the governor caving in to the GOP in what may be either the single most selfless thing he’s ever done, or the most shrewd political move in the history of the state.
There’s a lot riding on this for both sides: whoever is proven to be “right” in two years comes out smelling like a rose and will set the other party back probably for decades. And why? It’s all about revenues.
Dayton completely gave in on his stand on taxes, instead agreeing to the GOPs plan (as it has been for a long time) to not actually balance the budget in a real way: they will balance it through deferring payments to schools (forcing the school districts to borrow money until the state makes the remainder of the payments (which, by the way, will cost the state an extra $50 per pupil), and by borrowing against tobacco income that is due to be paid to the state in the future.
Oh, I know that the Republican’s defense for their plan will be that they compromised and spent more than they wanted to and needed to fill the gap with some income, but really? These are the same tricks and gimmicks they’ve used for over 10 years, when Pawlenty famously engineered a very similar plan when he was in the legislature.
But here’s the key: in two years, when the next budget comes up, where will the state be financially and how will the state government have prepared itself? If, in two years, the state’s financial situation is much better (much lower unemployment, substantially more income tax revenue from those workers, and a thriving business economy), then the GOP wins in public opinion because they will have guessed right and have the income to cover the budget cuts and shifts. If, on the other hand, things either are worse, the same, or just slightly better, the state will find itself in exactly the same position because all of the shifts and borrowing will come due again.
Frankly, the latter scenario is more likely because regardless of how good any government is at “creating jobs” (and let’s face the fact that government does very little to create jobs), it’s not going to go from sluggish to gangbusters in two years.
The nice part of all of this is that every voter in the state will have a frame of reference and remember exactly what happened in the budget debate, because we’ve all experienced an unprecedented two-week government shutdown. If anyone forgets it in the next election, they deserve to get screwed by the next passing politician.
What’s interesting is the complete lack of spin coming from the GOP now. They know that while on the surface it looks like they “won,” they’ve just been put in the driver’s seat, and whatever happens going forward can be pinned completely on them. Either way, Dayton gets bonus points because of his timing: after a tour of the state to sell his plan, he returns and promptly tells the GOP that his primary goal is to serve the people of the state and reopen government. No one from the Republican side did that. And, I’d bet, they were completely blindsided by the letter they got this morning.
I’ve always criticized Dayton for being a lightweight, and I think everyone has looked at him in a very similar manner. But in just a few hours today, he proved that he’s potentially more politically brilliant than anyone had imagined.
Stay tuned. The next two years will either make or break a political dynasty.
See you tomorrow.