Lakeville's Legislators Talk About Minnesota's Shutdown
Area legislators were in Lakeville Wednesday and revealed that a "new model" for resolving the state's budget impasse is expected to be proposed by the legislature within 24 hours. What that means is still unclear.
As Gov. Mark Dayton took to outstate Minnesota to plead his case and drum up support for his plan to end the government shutdown, Lakeville's three legislators were in town Wednesday morning to offer their thoughts.
State Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-District 36A) of Lakeville, State Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-District 36A) of Farmington, and State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-District 36) of Lakeville, visited yesterday with about 40 Lakeville Area Chamber of Commerce members and provided a slate of Republican-dominated bullet points concerning the current state of the state shutdown.
Holberg hinted at a new approach for addressing the state’s lingering budget standoff that might be unveiled sometime within the next 24 to 48 hours. Holberg didn’t elaborate on what that might include, but her other comments, along with those of Garofalo and Thompson, provided some additional focus on the Republican position regarding the standoff.
“We’re at a place, a time where we have to use a different model towards resolving this situation,” said Holberg and also stated that news of that new model would flow soon. “We in Minnesota are way behind the curve in reforming our policies at a state level and realigning with the reality of the new economic model in the country and the world.”
Holberg told the audience that in addition to the tax policy differences between the Republican-controlled legislature and the Dayton-led Democrats, the two sides are still separated by attempts to reform wages and benefit packages currently protected by collective bargaining agreements. Holberg said the private sector has had to endure similar reforms in the way they do business as have other states. She contends that the unwillingness to reform those policies in actuality costs the state jobs.
“What we’re looking at is an unsustainable growth model that is bad for the state,” said Holberg. “We have to at least begin to act like some of the other states. When you see the reforms in liberal states like New York, California and Illinois, even they have woke up and seen the necessity of doing things different.”
Thompson chimed in with a view of the shutdown from a newly elected perspective. The freshman senator said that “we are where we are not necessarily because of sniping and politics as usual.
"I happen to believe that November was a recognition … that we in Minnesota are behind the curve in changing the way government does business,” he said.
Thompson views the standoff as a “clash of world views” rather than the same old political disputes.
“In the past, I think it was a little bit you say tomato I say tomahto and we find a way to cut a deal in the middle,” he said. “I think now you’ve got two diametrically opposed views of the way government ought to operate.”
Thompson pointed to an initial $39 billion budget forecast on prior biennium spending of $34 billion as a model that can’t continue.
“If we continue to spend even a reasonable fraction of the increase that is requested and don’t change the way government functions, it’s a system that will ultimately crash under its own weight,” he said. “It just can’t happen.”
Thompson did say that the two sides were “relatively” close on the judiciary and public safety bill as well as the commerce bill. But he also said there were still wide gaps in agreement on the state government innovation and education bills.
Garofolo, who chairs the house education committee, said it was decided early on in the legislative session that “there is a sense of urgency in the education system in Minnesota.”
“We need to do things differently,” he said. “We need to get better results. But we have to do it at a responsible price.”
Garofalo said Republican legislators matched Dayton’s education funding budget numbers early on in a bid to steer the discussion toward policy reform and “resolving the issues that have plagued the system.”
Garofalo pointed to $1 billion in integration funding that he says produced “worse, rather than better” academic results and a broken collective bargaining process with regard to local school boards as examples of policy reform that impact the overall budget.
Garofalo said he had a list of 19 items that were still objectionable in the education bill, but that shouldn’t preclude an agreement on the other bills that the two sides have a basic agreement on.
Getting those bills passed, he said, would get thousands of state workers back on the job and open up revenue streams into depleting state coffers that are currently dammed up by the impasse.
“There are large chunks of the budget that we have agreement on,” he said. “I recognize the fact that Governor Dayton has said he won’t sign anything until we agree to everything. That was fine in May. That was fine in June. It is stupid on the twelfth day of a shutdown in the middle of July to have that philosophy. He should call us back … let’s sign the things we can agree on and fight about the other stuff.”
Even though the discussion on both sides was taken on the road on Wednesday, at some point all of the concerned parties will have to meet back in St. Paul if a resolution is to be reached.
The audience for the session appeared mostly receptive to the explanations given by the local legislators and most questions coming toward the representatives about policies and budget numbers were lobbed rather than thrown. But one admittedly frustrated member of the audience simply cut to the chase.
“What’s going to come of this? When is this going to end?”
“You’re within the next 24 to 48 hours where you’re going to see a different model being proposed by the legislature,” said Holberg. “I can’t give you the details right now.”
For now, whether that different model means compromise, concessions or further demands is still a secret. And whether that different model will result in a resolution is a mystery.