Editorial: Now Dayton, lawmakers have to work together

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As disappointing and frustrating as it may be, if this is how it has to happen, with the Minnesota Supreme Court having to order Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature to work together, so be it.

At least they'll be working together. Forced compromise is still compromise.

For the good of all Minnesotans? There's more reason to be optimistic about that after the state's high court last week directed a mediator to bring Dayton and lawmakers back to the negotiating table. This was after the DFL governor used a line-item veto in May to defund the Republican-led Legislature. And that followed legislative action to defund the state Department of Revenue should Dayton veto the tax bill. In short, the Legislature wanted Dayton to sign the tax bill, and Dayton wanted the Legislature to rework it. But instead of getting together and hashing out a mutually acceptable deal, they tried to manipulate each other and force the other's hand.

"Sadly, politics these days is not the art of persuasion; it is the art of coercion," as the Journal of New Ulm, Minn., observed in a weekend editorial about the situation.

That is sad, that politics have to stoop so low and that the actions of our governor and Legislature made so clear the need for a mediator — or maybe a preschool teacher not shy about putting disagreeable children in timeout.

With its ruling, the state's high court reminded us that Minnesotans deserve three functioning branches of government and that putting the Legislature out of commission by defunding it would have deprived us of that — of our "constitutional right," as Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea wrote. She urged "a proper respect for our coequal branches of government."

The court didn't give us a final word on gubernatorial veto power, however. Dayton's defunding decree was unprecedented.

"If the governor can just cut the funding for other branches of government that disagree with him, it gives him a truly potent weapon to use in any dispute," the New Ulm newspaper opined. "What happens when the court issues a decision he doesn't like? Will he be able to veto funding for the courts?"

Far more encouraging is the apparent willingness of Dayton and Republican legislative leaders to follow the court's direction and do what they haven't done much of to this point.

"I remain ready and very willing to engage in those negotiations immediately," Dayton said in a statement.

"We are ready to go to mediation," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said in their own statement.

Most Minnesotans prefer compromise. And working together. And reaching deals that maybe neither side loves but that both can live with. We should be able to expect that of our elected leaders — and it shouldn't take an order from the state's highest court.