Why We Are Headed for a Government Shutdown in Minnesota

This year has been quite the divisive year for politics in Minnesota. We saw the house and senate switch to a GOP majority. A trend that was in many ways reflective of what was happening at the national level. Meanwhile, Mark Dayton became the first DFL candidate to become governor in 20 years. The resulting conflict from the republican wave, not only almost forced a federal government shutdown, but is on the verge of creating a similar shutdown in Minnesota. At first glance one might think this is natural considering what has occurred federally, but the state of Minnesota has had a legislature and governor of differing political ideologies for years. So why now are we facing this potential dangerous gridlock?

The State of Minnesota faces an approximate $5 billion deficit. The policies of refusing to raise taxes coupled with the recession has severely reduced the amount of money the state has been able to bring in. Furthermore, the costs for services and institutions funded by the government have increased. This is a substantial percentage of the total budget. The last time this occurred in 2005, it was closer to $700 million. Such a large deficit requires a great deal of sacrifice making it far more difficult for the two sides of the debate to come to an agreement on who should carry the burden. Speaking of which…

The GOP refuses to compromise on the tax issue. While this is in line with the traditional stance of the GOP over the years, it is especially toxic in the current government stalemate. Any rational approach to tackling such a massive deficit should include a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Governor Dayton, has already agreed to compromise on both his tax increase and the GOP’s spending cut proposals. However, there are many in the legislature who are adamant that absolutely no tax increases be included in any budget deal. This type of rhetoric not only ignores reality, but would require cuts to programs like local government aid, that would indirectly lead to increased property taxes to fill the gap. Refusing to compromise will inevitability lead to a shutdown.

The extreme elements of the GOP are making it difficult for their representatives to negotiate. The fact GOP chairman, Tony Sutton created the website Daytonshutdown.com illustrates this. The website accuses Dayton “of running from his responsibilities
when things get tough.” This type of incendiary rhetoric makes it very difficult for the elected GOP officials to work with the governor in finding a solution. Furthermore, this type of name calling and accusatory language is not conducive to any sort of cooperation between the two parties. It is vital the parties are able to work together in a congenial manner if there is any hope of avoiding a severe government shutdown.

A government closure will have ramifications for all Minnesotans. Be it the vacationers attempting to enjoy the state parks that will inevitably become inaccessible, or the state university and college students who may be shut out of their summer classes. Everyone will feel the effects of this inability to work together on a solution. It it is important our elected officials realize the need to achieve consensus. This will mean sacrifices on both sides of isle. After all, in the words of Edmund Burke, “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.”

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