Will it be a deal or no deal next week when the rank and file lawmakers weigh in on the budget agreement Republican leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton devised to end the government shutdown?
Area lawmakers expect a special session to be called for Monday and that’s when they’ll have their say on a deal which no one seems thrilled about.
“It’s a deal that nobody likes,” Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, said. “We kicked the can down the road again and gained a short-term solution which I have never advocated.”
He said he gave the governor credit for compromising when he said Republicans would not. Ward said Dayton realized a deal had to be struck.
“Everybody is hurting. The economy is hurting.”
On the positive side Ward said the deal was preferable to an all cuts budget that would have resulted in property tax increases, eliminated seniors’ programs and hurt higher education students.
The shifting of funds from K-12 schools is a negative, according to Ward.
“I’ve never liked it,” he said. “We’ve used it over and over again. Our schools have become the bank of Minnesota. Eventually we’ve got to get to a point where we have a fair and balanced budget so we’re not doing this every two years.”
He termed the plan a “borrow and spend” solution and admitted to being apprehensive that some lawmakers might try to pull last-minute shenanigans that might ruin the deal.
Ward said he would wait and see the final product before pledging to vote for it.
Like Ward, Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, said he’ll have to wait to see the final budgets before deciding how he’ll vote. With the one-time money that’s being spent on school shifts, Gazelka said he’d like to see real reforms within areas such as education and health care so the long term costs go down.
Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, said the deal was a bad one but at least it gets the state government opened up again.
“It must be a true compromise because no one likes it,” he said. “Kicking the school funding can down the road is extremely distasteful.”
He said he was hopeful that if the Legislature can contain spending the picture will improve in the long run.
His preference was the Republican budget that was sent to the governor — one he described as a good, honest, straight-up budget with no gimmicks.
“I will hold my nose and vote for it,” he said.
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, who spent Friday working as chair of the Capital Investment Committee, said that since the governor and the leadership of the House agreed on the deal he would vote for it. While admitting that some people are still nervous about the budget deal, he said he was optimistic that it would become law.
“Unless something really weird happens — and it can in this building,” Howes said.
Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls, said he had concerns about borrowing money to fix the budget. He also said he was concerned that reforms that were implemented to save money might not have survived.
“I can’t commit on how I’m going to vote,” he said.
MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.