Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Governor Mark Dayton’s March 28th letter to Republican legislative leaders was less about a negotiated budgetary settlement and more about framing the debate after he vetoes their budget proposal.  From a strategic perspective it was masterful.  It was clear, intelligent, and firm.  Assuming legislative Democrats remain firm, the Governor will have the upper hand.

In any type of struggle involving a Governor versus the Legislature, a Governor will almost always prevail.  First of all, a Governor is the sole leader of a vast statewide management system; can move with speed and flexibility; and has the ability to instantly communicate to the media and the public.  Secondly, he has the full muscle of the veto.

Governor Dayton’s letter suggests that he fully understands the powers of his office and is prepared to use them.

The Legislature, on the other hand, is designed to be slow moving and cumbersome with power divided among 201 members and two separate chambers, House and Senate.  Even caucus leadership is divided thereby making it very difficult for any one leader to speak for all.

The specific situation as it pertains to Republicans and their control of both houses has additional burdens including:

1—They are locked into their own campaign rhetoric which railed against any form of “revenue enhancement” and this includes debt.

2—The expectations held out by their leaders during the campaign – Emmer--Pawlenty--Sutton—to the effect that either there are no deficits or that they will be easy to manage.

3—The increasing pressure from Tea Party supporters demonizing “revenue enhancement” and all the tools normally employed by political systems to resolve conflict such as compromise, negotiating, or even meeting with the other side.  In Minnesota, this pressure increases as Michelle Bachman’s presidential campaign gains strength.

All these forces are designed to push legislative Republicans away from a negotiated settlement and more towards a stalemate that would close government.  There can be no doubt that the Republican Party will be split between those willing to govern and the new far right which will not compromise.

Frankly, legislative Republicans deserve a more favorable destiny.  Many truly believe in reducing the size, scope, and costs of government.  But this approach cannot be successful in a slash and burn budgetary environment.  Roughly, 85 percent of state monies end up in local districts.  Inflicting harm, particularly when it is perceived to be extreme, is a sure path to political defeat.

However, closing the legislative session with a compromised budget situation and an agreement to work with the Governor on a reform agenda designed to review concerns of affordability along with size and scope of government has enormous appeal.  Minnesotans care deeply about quality of life issues and it is important that Republicans once again identify with those concerns.

This approach to governance helps both parties in that it brings intelligent bi-partisanship into play and embraces the middle of the political spectrum which is where most Minnesotans reside.  Perhaps of greatest importance is that it focuses positively on building a more promising future.

Let’s hope....


  1. Thankyou Arne. You remind me of the reasonable thoughtful GOP I grew up with. That I turned out a raving commie wasn't there fault. LOL Cheers, we miss you.

  2. Where are the statesmen when we need them? Where are those that will stand up for the common good, that are not obsessed with their own ideology?

  3. An excellent post. I really wish that the GOP had not been so marginalized that they have almost entirely moved to the extreme right. It seems that even on the state level we are losing anything akin to an Arne Carlson, or MN Republican Senator Steve Dille who recently retired.

    I feel forced to vote Democrat in MN state elections because of the totalitarian way in which the Tony Sutton and Republican leaders keep the flock in lock step voting extremely to the right. No compromise, no negotiating, nothing accomplished.

  4. Wonders what color is the sky over the planet on which Arne Carlson currently resides! It must be pink.
    The current fiscal circumstance in which Minnesotans see their government is a direct result of a long line of Republicans giving in here and giving in there to the plaintive pleas of bleeding-heart liberals continually expanding the scope of government to do more and give more to keep an ever-growing portion of the Minnesota populace dependent on direct government aid.
    ENOUGH!, cry the independent; TOO MUCH!, cry members of grass roots citizens who continue to arise from an apathetic, "Minnesota nice" stupor to challenge the confusion between charity and governance.
    The best that Arne Carlson can suggest is "closing the legislative session with a compromised budget situation and an agreement to work with the Governor on a reform agenda designed to review concerns of affordability along with size and scope of government." In other words, give in, again, and give in a little more later.

  5. Another excellent posting. Sir, I have question for you, or maybe a future topic suggestion. I was wondering--
    --Has the question of "why doesn't MN have a bank based on the State Bank of ND" been addressed by a sitting governor?

    I think we need one and certainly could have used one this past decade or so. Your thoughts?


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