The 2016 election was certainly exhausting, but guess what: The end of the legislative session this year has merely served to show the overriding importance of the 2018 election in Minnesota.
Of course, there was the issue of money — primarily who should get it. Republicans, now in control of both chambers of the Legislature, would have preferred to use the $1.65 billion budget surplus on tax cuts for business and other favored interest groups, and on roads and bridges.
Gov. Mark Dayton advocated protecting spending in education and health and human services. With the Senate not up for election in 2018 and the House GOP majority looking relatively secure, a Republican governor in 2018 could finally get the GOP the big tax cuts they have been thirsting after for years.
But Dayton, the second-term DFL governor not running for another term, was also the last line of defense for labor unions and other DFL constituencies as they tried to head off a GOP policy agenda.
At the behest of the teachers union (and his own education commissioner), Dayton vetoed a bill that sought to make changes to the state's teacher licensure system. The bill would make it easier for certain qualified Minnesotans — especially recent arrivals from out of state — to obtain a license to teach. The bureaucratic morass of licensing is frustrating the efforts of some school districts to solve a teacher shortage, supporters said.
Dayton said he would sign a bill, but not without funding to implement it.
A Republican governor almost certainly would have signed it.
And, for Republican-leaning business groups, Dayton was the last roadblock to getting their policy agenda through the Legislature.
Budget bills were loaded with policy provisions important to business interests. Chief among them: what's known as "pre-emption," or preventing cities from setting their own minimum wage, sick leave and other labor standards. Business groups loathe the idea of cities increasing the minimum wage, both because it would create a patchwork of new regulations and because cities are trending liberal and would likely raise their minimum wage and require other new benefits, which would eat into profits.
Dayton was able to use his leverage as governor to swat away these policy provisions and other measures dealing with environmental and consumer protection.
A Republican governor would welcome them.