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Another shutdown for Minn.?

 

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota legislators should be in a happy mood. They have returned to a spectacularly renovated Capitol building. The coffers are more than full, thanks to a surplus surpassing a billion dollars. The state’s business climate, job growth and status as a great place to live have rarely been better.

But the governor and leading lawmakers are not happy. They have been squabbling like children in a very nice playground, apparently so afflicted by partisan myopia they don’t seem to grasp the opportunities that the nice playground presents. They say all the right things about getting along and getting the work done, but then they retreat behind their respective political lines and toss rocks at each other. As last year’s Legislature demonstrated, it is really hard to get stuff done when the debate starts out with insults and cheap shots.

Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, and seem intent on scuttling most any initiative that comes from Democrat Dayton. Several Republican leaders have higher political aspirations, and their political futures have taken priority over legislative compromise.

For his part, Dayton is not running for re-election, so he has nothing to lose by stomping out of meetings with Republicans, in particular when they don’t see things his way, and say so. He, too, seems unwilling to work for compromise that will, at least, advance important legislation that was neglected in 2016.

There is a lot at stake, not the least of which is narrowing the chasm between urban and rural Minnesota, which has grown deeper and wider during Dayton’s tenure as governor and Republican legislative majorities in one chamber and now both. Greater Minnesota lawmakers might want to keep in mind they’ve run in the last few cycles on a promise to address pressing rural needs, a promise they have not kept.

More gridlock? A repeat of the 2011 state government shutdown? Dayton doesn’t want that, he says. Republican legislative leaders don’t want that, they say. But their words and actions thus far suggest they would rather score political points than find solutions for Minnesota’s real problems.

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