Unless Minnesota’s political climate has changed dramatically from two years ago, Governor Dayton looks to have a much stronger public relations hand to play in upcoming budget negotiations than the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Dayton supports fixing the budget shortfall with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, a combo platter approach that was supported by the largest group of Minnesotans in an April 2009 Star Tribune poll (look for a simlar Star Tribune poll any day now). Meanwhile, Republicans support fixing the shortfall with spending cuts only, an approach supported by a smaller 40% segment of the population.
When you get down to the level of the two parties’ specific centerpiece proposals, Dayton’s hand gets stronger and the Republican legislators’ hand gets weaker. Republican legislators’ cuts are leaning heavily in the direction of cutting health care for poor people, a position supported by just 22% of Minnesotans. At the same time, Dayton’s much maligned proposal to tax the wealthiest Minnesotans was supported by 67% of Minnesotans in 2009. That’s a 55 point advantage for Dayton.
So how is it that the Dayton position supported by two-thirds of Minnesotans is consistently declared by the news media to be politically untenable and therefore unfit for serious consideration in budget negotiations?
If the budget debate were a poker game — and it obviously is a higher stakes contest than that –I’d much rather have Dayton’s hand than the Republican Legislature’s hand.