Editorial: Minnesota dysfunction has become the norm
Minnesota is once again mired in partisan dysfunction in St. Paul. Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and Republican leaders who control both chambers of the legislature are far apart in their budget proposals, a troublesome stalemate as the session nears completion. The governor and legislators are at odds over how to spend Minnesota's projected $1.65 billion surplus. Dayton wants to spend more on education, including his voluntary pre-kindergarten proposal. Republicans want to spend the surplus on transportation funding and tax cuts.
Before budget talks broke down Wednesday, the governor and legislative leaders each made concessions that brought the two sides closer together, but a wide gap remains. Dayton, who vows that he's done making concessions, mentioned the 2011 budget impasse, which resulted in a state government shutdown—once again a very real possibility. The governor and legislature also are far apart on their bonding proposals, with the Republican legislators wanting to spend less than the governor. Democrats complain that the Republican borrowing plan falls short in funding for college campuses.
Encouragingly, both the Republican and Democratic bonding proposals include money for the grade separation project in Moorhead, which has been on the drawing board for years. But passing a bonding bill, unlike a budget bill, is not essential, and it's possible that lawmakers could simply walk away from the budget bill, leaving projects like the Moorhead grade separation stranded once again.
It's a big mess. Nothing seems to get done in St. Paul anymore. Although the budget quagmire is somewhat reminiscent of 2011, Dayton's first budget, the problem then was a huge deficit. Now the feud is over a large surplus. The problem, of course, is an inability to strike a compromise. The divide is a vivid illustration of how polarized politics have become, with the two parties seemingly inhabiting different planets. Underneath the gridlock in St. Paul is a divided electorate. Minnesota voters have opted for divided government. Unfortunately, the state is suffering from the dysfunction. Minnesota's crumbling highways, full of potholes, are a monument to the inability of state leaders to govern. This is a problem that can only be solved at the ballot box. It's clear that those now running the state are not up to the job.