Capitol Chatter: Dayton turns down chance to grade himself, this timeMark Dayton learned. After Dayton left the U.S. Senate in 2006, he told Renville County West High School students that he would give himself an “F” grade.
By: Don Davis, Alexandria Echo Press
ST. PAUL -- Mark Dayton learned.
After Dayton left the U.S. Senate in 2006, he told Renville County West High School students that he would give himself an “F” grade.
Tom Cherveny, a West Central Tribune of Willmar reporter, reported that to his readers and the news quickly spread across the state. Dayton, Cherveny wrote, was frustrated and not satisfied with his accomplishments during his one-term Senate stint.
His opponents mentioned that “F” grade time and time again when Dayton ran for governor last year.
So how does the now-Gov. Mark Dayton grade himself after his first legislative session, and extra-inning special session to pass a state budget?
“Given the condition as that surrounded me, I would give myself a very good grade,” Dayton told Forum Communications. “I learned from my previous experience not to get reduced down to a letter because it is more complex than that.”
Beyond that, Dayton learned how to accentuate the positive. “Four of my five major objectives were achieved: a balanced budget, a reasonable budget, a bonding bill, elimination of the social policy items that I couldn’t accept and getting Minnesota back to work.”
The governor said he fought long and hard to raise taxes on Minnesota’s top earners, but Republicans would not go along.
“I don’t fault myself for that,” he said. “I did my utmost for six months. They have a majority in the House and the Senate. They voted in lockstep. ... People of Minnesota put them in the majority.”
Japan, Korea planned
The state government shutdown scuttled a Minnesota trade mission to China, but Gov. Mark Dayton plans to be in that part of the world in late September.
Dayton said in a Forum Communications interview that he will speak to a major international economic development conference in late September in Japan. The annual meeting is to be in Minneapolis next year, and Dayton said he is fulfilling a tradition that the host of the next meeting speak at the event.
“I am going to combine that with a couple of days talking with some Japanese companies,” he said.
Then, the governor said, he also will visit South Korea for some economic development efforts.
The trip should last about a week, he said, and will not include as many people as a full-blown trade mission.
Dayton also said he would like to reschedule the China trip, but no decision has been made.
What’s the number?
It seems like reporting how much money the state is spending should be simple.
Republicans like to say the final two-year state budget is a bit more than $34 billion. To a point, they are right. That is how much comes out of the state-tax-supported General Fund.
But that number does not include two forms of borrowing that boost how much money the state can spend. When those figures are added in, the number is $35.7 billion. That probably is the figure Minnesotans will see most often.
To add to the confusion, the state actually will spend something north of $60 billion in the next two years.
That number includes funds like those that come from the federal government that the state has little control over. It also includes other special funds, such as those that come from transportation-related taxes and can be spent on nothing other than transportation.
And to further confuse people, different states look at budgets differently. Some states, such as Wisconsin, traditionally use the all-funds budget figure (equivalent to Minnesota’s $60 billion), while many states like Minnesota usually just note the General Fund budget.
But no matter what figure is used, it is sure to be debated in the politically charged atmosphere in Minnesota.
Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders heard from many observers that negotiating the budget behind closed doors in a closed Capitol building was bad.
They rejected that criticism. Dayton said the bills mostly are ones the Legislature passed, and he vetoed, in May.
“It was mostly a matter of subtraction than addition,” he said of the compromise bills, meaning most provisions already had been debated.
“The public, the media and many of those involved in the legislative process were disgusted by the complete disregard for transparent and accessible government,” Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said. “What Speaker (Kurt) Zellers called the ‘cone of silence,’ with budget negotiations behind closed doors, must become a thing of the past.”
Marty reminded Minnesotans that since 1972 legislative committee meetings are to be open to the public.
“Unfortunately, over the past four decades, this openness has been slipping away incrementally,” Marty said. “While committee meetings are open to the public, many of the most important policy and budget decisions are now made behind closed doors, in conference committee negotiations and in budget negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders.”
Redistricting plans set
Amid all the discussion about the state budget, another divisive issue slipped by with little notice: The state chief justice announced a judicial redistricting panel will hold meetings around the state later this year.
Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea issued an order that sets in motion what everyone expected all along: The courts likely will decide legislative and congressional district lines.
The redistricting panel will hold public meetings with local officials, representatives of community groups and others who seek input into how the lines are drawn. Meeting times and locations will be announced later, but Gildea’s order said they would be between Oct. 6 and Oct. 14.
Minnesotans may follow court action at www.mncourts.gov/?page=4469.
Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton could not agree on a redistricting plan, which left it up to the courts. District lines must be redrawn every 10 years to follow the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of one-person, one-vote.