Gov. Mark Dayton offered a sharply worded threat to the Republican-controlled Legislature last week: "There's nothing the administration has to have in this session. There are things that are very important to have. Things that are going to benefit the people of Minnesota, like a tax bill. But there's nothing that we have to have."
Dayton's bold boast of his strong bargaining position was just one of several indicators that a tax deal at the Legislature may be only a 50-50 proposition.
There's widespread agreement at the Capitol that the Legislature needs to address the state's tax system after the federal tax overhaul last year; not doing so will mean a complicated mess next year for taxpayers and the Department of Revenue, plus a tax increase for an estimated 300,000 households.
Dayton was telling Republicans, who have been attacking his plan, that they better deal, or he'll walk away.
Republicans also indicated a willingness to take a walk: "Maybe we should wait for a new governor interested in real tax reform," tweeted Bill Walsh, a Senate Republican aide.
Dayton's retirement from politics brings up another potential impediment to a deal: He will never face the voters again, so why would he sign anything unless it's most of what he wants?
The effects of not doing a tax bill won't be felt this year and therefore won't be much of an election issue.
Which means Republicans can pass a bill they like, send it to Dayton for his veto, and then tell the base GOP voters they need that they tried but were thwarted by their nemesis.
All of this analysis presumes all the political actors are moved by crass political motives and not the good of the state. So, it must be mistaken, right?
Something to watch in the state Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans 34-33: Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, who is also the lieutenant governor, is being sued by a constituent who says Fischbach can't do both jobs.
If Fischbach loses, what happens to all the issues on which she voted and the tally was 34-33? Would they be invalidated? The majority leader, Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is probably contemplating this headache scenario a lot these days.