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Editorial: Done deal is a small win for Dayton

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders of the Legislature have a deal to end the partial shutdown of state government, but it is not yet a done deal. Given the rhetoric from the Legislature's far right and far left elements, it would not be a surprise if the deal unravels.

That being said, a perusal of the tentative agreement's provisions suggests the best the DFL governor and Republican leaders were able to do was, as they say, "kick the can down the road." The governor got part of what he wanted, including excising Republican attempts to include hot-button social issues in the deal. Republicans got some of what they wanted, including forcing the governor to abandon, for now, his plan to tax Minnesota's wealthiest residents.

The proposal, which needs legislative approval and the governor's signature before the shutdown can end, seems to be a compromise. On one level it is. But the underlying problems with the state's budget - too much spending and not enough revenue - have not been addressed seriously. For example, the pact calls for delays in school payments and borrows against tobacco lawsuit payments. That's a fast shuffle, not a solution to fiscal irresponsibility. In the long run, it will cost Minnesotans because those funding gimmicks will have to be paid back.

Winners? Losers? Depending upon what happens this week in the Legislature, it looks like the governor wins the public relations test. Minnesotans without strong political biases - and that's most of them - will credit Dayton with ending the shutdown. He has successfully painted Republican leaders as obstructionists and has followed that strategy by essentially coming off as the grown-up in the debate by accepting the GOP's short-term blueprint.

Republicans likely will feel Minnesotans' ire about the shutdown sooner and more intensely than the governor. As Forum Communications St. Paul reporter Don Davis noted in a Sunday analysis, all 201 legislative incumbents are on the ballot next year, while Dayton is not up for re-election until 2014. Even as most Minnesotans wish a pox on both their houses because of the shutdown, voter ire is more problematic for Republicans because they hold majorities in both houses.

If the deal represents compromise, if not a satisfying solution to Minnesota's budget woes, then it can be seen as government working as it's supposed to. That's a small step in the right direction for a state that used to work quite well but now has achieved dubious status as dysfunctional. And when all the elements of the still-to-be-ratified deal are considered, Dayton can claim a victory, albeit a very small and ethereal one.

Forum Communications Co. editorial