Budget bill delays raise questions

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2011 - 1:47 PM

What’s the holdup? That’s become the question of the week at the Capitol.

Conference committee action on budget bills has slowed to an imperceptible pace, leaving those excluded from GOP leadership circles – including DFL Gov. Mark Dayton – increasingly puzzled. 

The Legislature sent its big budget bills to conference committee nearly a month ago. Little has happened since.

It’s clear that Dayton’s request that the big bills get final floor action and arrive on his desk by the end of this week has been ignored.

It’s also clear that Republicans are rapidly losing whatever strategic or public relations advantage they hoped to achieve by sending the budget bills to conference committee in early April, ahead of the usual schedule.

That move was supposedly intended to allow more time for end-of-session negotiations with the governor.

But Dayton has long made clear that he won’t wade into three-way negotiations over legislative budgets that remain out of balance. He wants the Legislature to complete its own work first – a position he reiterated to reporters Wednesday.

“I think that’s eminently reasonable,” Dayton said.

The slowdown has the Capitol rife with rumors of internal discord within Republican caucuses, as Tea Party-inspired legislators resist compromise with the DFL governor. 

Those legislators may think they are pleasing their constituents by sticking to no-new-taxes purity. But as Dayton made clear Wednesday, no compromise will mean no budget for 2012-13.

No budget will mean a government shutdown after July 1. And a government shutdown is likely to mean unhappy constituents, even in the state’s most Tea-infused districts.

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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