By PHIL KRINKIE
When Gov. Mark Dayton took office in January 2011, he spoke of working with the newly elected Republican majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate. During his inaugural speech he said to the legislature, "Let’s get Minnesota working again by working together."
Fifteen months after he uttered these words there is little if any sign that Dayton has made the slightest attempt to work with Republicans in either body. Dayton’s rhetoric is about jobs, but his actions reflect his desire for higher taxes and more state debt. In his first budget proposal released a little more than a year ago; Dayton laid out a plan to increase taxes by four billion dollars and called for Minnesota’s income tax to be the second highest in the nation.
Last March, when Republicans brought up the governor’s tax plan for a vote, Dayton wrote a letter to Democrat legislators urging them to vote against his own budget proposal and accused the Republicans of "juvenile political theater."
As the end of the session approached last May, Dayton refused to negotiate with Republican leaders on a budget solution and in the end vetoed nine major budget bills. The result was a protracted budget debate that dragged out most of the summer and lead to a three-week state government shut down.
In June when negotiations began in earnest, Republican lawmakers scheduled a public hearing on Gov. Dayton’s latest budget proposal. Rather than encourage participation in the budget negotiation, Dayton contacted his commissioners and told them not to attend the hearing, calling the normal hearing procedure a "political stunt." At one point in the process Dayton even suggested that the state hire a professional mediator to help "set the parameters" for the budget negotiations.
The governor’s demand for a tax increase to resolve the stalemate on the budget lasted through June and resulted in a partial shutdown of state services in July. Republican leadership rejected Dayton’s proposal to balance the budget with the largest school payment delay in state history, requesting that the legislature increase the amount delayed in school aid payments from 30 percent to 40 percent. The budget showdown finally ended when Dayton accepted a GOP resolution that had been on the table for three weeks. Fortunately Republicans rejected Dayton’s call for higher taxes and today the budget is balanced and there is a billion dollars in reserves.
Not more than three months after the legislature completed their budget work and adjourned, Dayton was calling for a special legislative session to consider state funding for a new Vikings football stadium. He spoke of bringing legislators back to St. Paul even before there was a draft stadium-funding proposal. Now, more than six months later, after endless conversations, self-imposed deadlines and press conferences, Dayton has failed to endorse any Vikings stadium plan. He continues to call on legislators to pass a funding bill while refusing to back any specific plan.
In February, Dayton released his suggested state construction project list. The list totaled more than $775 million in building projects including a St. Paul Saints ballpark and a new dolphin tank at the Minnesota Zoo. But his $775 million project wish list is on top of his demand for $500 million in debt financed projects that was passed by the Legislature just six months earlier.
But not all of Dayton’s time has been spent talking about more state spending and increased state debt.
Last fall Dayton issued an executive order calling for a vote on the unionization of home-based childcare. Despite warnings and legislative litigation, Dayton insisted he had the authority to call for the vote by childcare operators. But last week, a Ramsey County judge ruled that Dayton’s action was unconstitutional. Now with just weeks before the end of the 2012 legislative session, Dayton stands at the ready to veto any major reforms lawmakers may send to his desk. Dayton has already vetoed several GOP reforms and appears determined to veto many more.
Dayton’s latest veto was a bill to restore $430 million in payments to school districts. Dayton made a 180-degree turn from his position in November when he said his first priority was to repay the school shift used to help balance the budget in 2011.
Now, in Dayton’s most recent directive to legislative leaders he outlined his three top priorities for the remainder of the 2012 session. They are: the "People’s Stadium," a bonding bill and Capitol restoration. But his letter states, "whether they pass or not will be your decision and your responsibility, not mine." These are not the words of a governor that wants to "get Minnesota working again by working together," but rather language of confrontation and partisanship.
The lack of accomplishments during this session is not due to lack of effort from legislators, but due to Dayton’s dismal performance. He has no vision for our state. He has no plan for economic recovery. His only desire has been to increase the tax burden on our state’s job creators and burden its citizens with more debt. Dayton’s failure to make any progress toward achieving his goal of "working together" has been because he lacks the leadership skills to garner support for his ideas from both Republican and Democrat legislators.
Dayton’s record for his first year in office is one of evading responsibility, failed policies and dismal performance. If more debt and higher taxes were the answer to job creation, America would be at full employment.
Phil Krinkie, a former eight-term Republican state rep who chaired the House Tax Committee for a while, is president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org