Seventeen months ago yesterday, in the midst of negotiations about the budget, the GOP-led Legislature sent Governor Dayton a proposed budget. It offered some concessions on revenue, and asked for some ground on social issues.
First thing the next morning, June 30 – 17 months ago today – the DFL came out with a counter-offer.
Labeled the “Dayton-Bakk-Thissen Compromise Budget Proposal”, it demanded $1.4 billion in new revenues. It was a further negotiation, just like the Legislature’s letter the day before.
And – this is important – it had all three DFL leaders on board. Governor Dayton, Senate minority leader Bakk and House minority leader Thissen all signed off on this proposal.
We’ll refer to this as “The Morning Letter” from now on.
And as the government coursed toward the midnight shutdown, that apparently was where things stayed.
The rest of this article uses this Scribd file, originally from Dayton’s chief of staff Bob Hume, as its source.
It’s been popping up around the Twin Cities media off and on ever since the shutdown.
The Morning Letter
Now, much of what went on over the next 6-7 hours is shrouded in mystery; it took place in off-the-record conversations and phone calls and communications that aren’t available to the general public if they’re recorded at all.
Noon: Dayton’s Offer
But the upshot of those conversations – whatever they were – was that at 3PM on the 30th of June, the Governor – alone, without Thissen or Bakk – released a proposal that dropped all tax increases.
There were three significant things about this letter, which we’ll call “Dayton’s Offer”.
One was that Dayton dropped demands for tax increases, in return, Dayton proposed a 50% shift in school funding to the following biennium – the “borrowing from the children” that the DFL and media have worked so hard to pin on the GOP this past year. It was a major concession by the Governor. According to sources on Capitol Hill familiar with the negotiations, this was seen by the GOP majority in the Legislature as a key step toward reaching a “lights-on” agreement to prevent the shutdown.
But the other two significant things were actually things missing from the proposal:
- Bakk and Thissen: Their names had been on the Morning Letter – but were absent at 3PM. Sources at the Capitol indicate that that’s because – well, Bakk and Thissen didn’t support it!
- Any mention of GOP policy proposals: The Dayton Offer includes no reference to GOP “Social Policy” proposals – because Dayton knew at noon on the 30th that the GOP had taken them off the table. This is an inference, both by my sources and myself. It’s also the only logical conclusion.
So as of a little after lunch on 6/30, the Legislature and the Governor – but not Bakk and Thissen – were in basic agreement; no tax hikes, no social policy concessions.
The 3PM Letter
A couple of hours later, at 3PM, the GOP sent a counter-offer. It involved two tweaks to Dayton’s proposal:
- Cutting the size of the education shift (at the recommendation of Dayton’s Education Commissioner)
- Making up the difference with tobacco bonding
This letter – we’ll call it “The 3PM Letter” – involved accepting the concessions in The Dayton Offer with a few on the GOP’s part. Otherwise, the two offers were just about identical.
As of 3PM, then, it looked as if the Governor and the Legislature were in agreement, and the shutdown could be averted.
The 4:06PM Letter
Dayton responded about an hour later, at 4:06PM. Dayton accepted the changes to the education shift – it was his administration’s idea, after all – but tossed the tobacco bonding proposal and renewed the demand for new taxes…
…that he himself had taken off the table earlier in the afternoon!
The GOP’s response expressed dismay at the sudden – I believe the term of art in the Age of Obama is “unexpected” – flip-flop on Dayton’s part – and proposed a “lights-on” bill.
So To Recap…
Just to make sure we’re clear, here:
- The DFL – Dayton, Bakk and Thissen – demanded $1.4B.
- Negotiation ensued under the “cone of silence”.
- Dayton offered to drop the tax demands, and by omission showed that the GOP had dropped their social policy demands.
- The GOP accepted this proposal, with a few fine tweaks, including one from Dayton’s own administration.
- Dayton spun on his heels and rejected that offer – ignored it, really – and countered with a flip-flop on taxes.
The “cone of silence” remained in effect for the next five or six hours. Nobody exactly knows what transpired on the way to Dayton’s big speech at 10PM.
Dayton’s Presser at 10PM
Just in time for the 10PM news, Dayton called a press conference. Here’s the transcript.
It’s full of prevarications, and one outright lie:
- “Therefore, a $1.4 billion gap remains between our last respective offers.” But the GOP’s proposal on the 29th offered to compromise with the DFL on revenue. The conservative base – myself included – would have howled at this, but the GOP was clearly looking to keep the government open.
- “Republicans have offered only to forego their $200 million tax cut and add that amount of spending. While welcomed, $200 million is only a small step toward resolving a $5 billion deficit.” The 3PM Letter shows that the GOP was willing to go along with some sort of revenue hikes.
- “Today, Representative Thissen, Senator Bakk, and I made two proposals which contained revenues to be raised by increasing taxes only on people who make more than $1 million per year. The Department of Revenue reports that there are only 7,700 of them, less than 0.3% of all Minnesota tax filers.” Well, no. Dayton made two offers; Bakk and Thissen only participated in the first one.
The Administration started out demanding tax hikes; the GOP expressed a willingness to compromise. The Administration then flip-flopped and went back to their first set of demands, ignoring the GOP concessions (for purposes of presenting the media a narrative), with Dayton contradicting himself in the process.
And Here’s Where The Media Tush-Smooching Comes In
The Governor contradicted himself and rejected a proposal that was one minor tweak removed from his own, Bakk-And-Thissen-less offer (“Dayton’s Offer”), leading directly to the government shutdown.
And yet today, 17 months later, the DFL’s PACs and pressure groups refer to it as “the Republican shutdown”. It’s a Big Lie. But nobody’s countering it.
I’ve often wondered; what if our society had an institution, maybe even an industry, with printing presses and transmitters, staffed with people whose job and training involves checking up on things that government officials say – and maybe even holding them accountable for the things they say and do? Heck, even allow this institution to see itself as an aescetic elite who “comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted”, in exchange for, you know, actually comforting and afflicting.
We could use this in Minnesota.
Remember where we started yesterday – with Esme Murphy giving Mark Dayton her usual deep-tongue-kiss on her Sunday Morning Show:
Notwithstanding the contradictions in Dayton’s own proposals that are part of the public record timeline of the negotiations on June 29-30, Dayton runs with the “Social Issues” canard.
The Strib also served, then as now, as Dayton’s de facto stenographer in their “coverage” of the chain of events.
The Star-Tribune also bought Dayton’s line – that the “requested concessions” brought on the shutdown – completely uncritically, without noting the evolution, and then abrupt de-evolution, on Dayton’s position. The Strib mentioned not a word about the “flip-flop”.
Tomorrow – appropriately, Halloween – the way the shutdown went down, and conclusions about “journalism” and Governor Dayton.