We’re not sure what’s more disheartening: The failure of the GOP and Gov. Dayton to reach a budget deal, or the fact that the entire state could see this impasse coming for the past four months. It’s as if our elected leaders planted themselves in the path of a glacier, then stubbornly refused to get out of its way.
To make matters worse, this may have been just the first of several rounds in a high-stakes game of chicken. In round one, no one blinked. No one swerved to avoid the collision — but no smash-up happened.
That means we can expect little to no action during the next four weeks. The wheels of state government will keep turning, so there’s no motivation for Republicans and Dayton to budge an inch from their current positions.
If the two sides do reach a deal to avoid a government shutdown, it almost certainly will arrive in the waning hours of June — but such a deal seems highly unlikely. Minnesota is on the brink of all-out ideological warfare between those who prefer self-reliance and smaller government and those who want to maintain the important-yet-expensive safety nets that protect children, vulnerable adults and the elderly.
When the law-making roles were reversed Gov. Pawlenty could essentially veto and cut his way to a “balanced” budget.
But Dayton’s position is far different. He can’t add new spending or programs to GOP budget proposals. He can’t raise taxes on his own. So, barring an unforeseen collapse of resolve on one side, we’re five weeks away from a government shutdown that might last much longer than the eight-day closure in 2005.
We’d like to believe that ultimately, the two sides will reach an agreement based on a mutual understanding of what’s best for Minnesota. The sad reality, however, is that the eventual budget deal will come about when one side or the other decides that they’re taking the bulk of the blame from voters.
That’s right: Fear, not ideas, is likely to determine who will win this battle of wills.