With seven weeks to go, the legislative session has reached crunch time. How will it end?
With a GOP Legislature and a DFL governor, who will craft the deals?
"The volume is a lot lower than previous sessions," said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, referring to floor debates and the overall atmosphere. "Because no one wants to cut a deal with a jerk, and no one wants to be a jerk if it means you're locked out of negotiations."
Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, who is nursing a slim one-vote advantage as majority leader, said he expects the upper chamber to finish up its budget bills and then start talking to DFL colleagues and Gov. Mark Dayton. The goal is to see if there are deals to be had so lawmakers can send bills to Dayton that he will actually sign.
Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, the minority leader, said he does not think Gazelka wants to go through a round of Dayton vetoes. "[Gazelka's] not wanting to go down that road. He's very serious about governing," he said.
And Bakk — gentleman that he is — offered to help provide votes where needed. "Where he doesn't have 34 votes, I've told him I'm willing to sit at the table."
The GOP-controlled House is a different animal, however. Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, is widely considered to be a potential candidate for governor. It remains to be seen how Republican voters will look upon a legislative leader who cuts deals with a DFL governor. Consider this: Cutting deals cost U.S. House Speaker John Boehner his job.
The House and Senate tax bills offer an interesting contrast in the politics of tax cuts. The House GOP bill throws a bone to every favored interest group: Social Security recipients, first-time home buyers, homeowners, smokers, businesses that own property, farmers, parents saving for college, Minnesotans with student loans. Even some wealthy heirs would get an estate tax cut.
The Senate GOP bill takes a different approach: More than 40 percent of it is a simple cut in the lowest income tax bracket from 5.35 percent down to 5 percent after it's phased in.
On the one hand, the Senate's broader-based cut is simpler to explain. But it's so small that many workers might not even notice it. Whereas those lucky groups in the House bill are more likely to know they got theirs, and they may reward House Republicans for it in 2018.