State budget politics: 'Can't we all just get along?'

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2011 - 9:05 PM

Ramona Dohman

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It’s hard to get the budget numbers straight at the Capitol, let alone the budget language.

A Dayton commissioner was gently chided by Legislative Auditor James Nobles earlier this month for sending a letter to her agency’s employees that spoke of the “negative impacts” of the now-vetoed GOP budget bills and characterizes Dayton’s alternative budget proposal as “reasonable.”

That language could be interpreted as “promoting a political position,” Nobles told Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Dohman, and that crosses a line in state statute that forbids the use of state email for political purposes.

When Nobles’ mild rebuke came to the attention of Senate GOP media staffers, it appeared in reporters’ inboxes moments later. Nobles was soon inundated with requests to declare other letters from both branches of government out of bounds.

By Wednesday afternoon, it had Nobles pleading, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Apparently when the state is on the brink of a government shutdown, we can’t. But we should. The spat over language was a distraction from the real work of setting a state budget.

One feature of the GOP complaints itself bears chiding. Republicans dispute the executive branch claim that the Legislature “adjourned without appropriating money to fund state government” in fiscal 2012. In fact, the Legislature passed its budget bills, the GOP spinmeisters point out. 

True enough — but an appropriation requires a law, and a law requires a governor’s signature. Passing a bill by itself does not appropriate money. In courtroom language: “Objection overruled.”

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.


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