As the state budget showdown begins to look more like a political campaign, Minnesota Republican Party leaders say DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has been bent on a government shutdown since he took office.
State party chairman Tony Sutton is renewing old campaign rhetoric, calling Dayton and “erratic” and a “spoiled rich guy” who had a “hissy fit” when Republican legislators didn’t agree to his proposed tax increase.
“There is a madness to his method,” Sutton said Thursday, as the party unveiled a new website that tries to put blame of the shutdown squarely on Dayton.
State Democratic leaders pushed back sharply, calling Sutton’s words a “character assassination.”
“There’s no place for this,” DFL party Chairman Ken Martin said. “This kind of behavior creates more of a gulf than we need in this state and in this Capitol. This kind of polarization and politics, there’s no place for it.”
This is the latest verbal dust-up since Monday, when Dayton and the GOP failed to come to a budget agreement after a five month legislative session.
Republicans objected Tuesday when Dayton said "extreme right-wing" freshmen GOP members were hindering a budget agreement.
Dayton wants to raise taxes on high earners to erase the $5 billion deficit, but Republicans want to balance the budget solely though cuts. The state faces a government shutdown if the two sides can’t strike a deal by July.
The announcement of the GOP's new website comes as union-backed Alliance for a Better Minnesota launches a $1 million advertising campaign urging Minnesotans to reject the Republican budget.
Republicans say Dayton “is primed for a government shutdown,” which they say means he is unwilling to negotiate.
Republicans have been talking about shutdown for months, however.
At the beginning of the session, Republican House members held a brief informational hearing on the mechanics of a government shutdown.
At a March Minnesota GOP executive committee meeting, Sutton predicted "the Republican-controlled Legislature will pass a balanced budget, leaving the government shutdown on the shoulders of Governor Dayton," according a report from the meeting.
The GOP's new website, daytonshutdown.com, was purchased May 18, according to the website godaddy.com. That was six days before session ended with no budget deal.
Martin said Dayton has tried to reach across the aisle to broker a deal, but the GOP response has been to denigrate his character and redirect the blame.
“We can find a way for a win-win for all parties, but you are not going to get there by calling names and throwing mud,” Martin said.
Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.