Dayton’s PR Hand In Budget Negotiations Is Strong

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.

Dayton proposal in blue, GOP Legislature proposal in red.

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.

– Loveland

25 thoughts on “Dayton’s PR Hand In Budget Negotiations Is Strong

  1. Newt says:

    Joe – this is such a misread of the political climate!

    The GOP needs to pass its budget bill, then go home. Dayton will be THE ONE PERSON left holding the bag when the government shuts down when he refuses to sign it. All eyes will be on him alone.

    The DFL is totally boxed in now because its ONLY political tool – spending – is now firmly in the hands of the GOP.

    The electorate has spoken.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Is this the same electorate that gave 56% of the vote to the two gubernatorial candidates – Dayton and Horner -who made tax increases high visibility centerpieces of their campaigns?

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Sounds like the majority in the middle wants a balanced approach, with both spending cuts and tax increases for the wealthy.

      1. Newt says:

        I don’t know what legitimate claims “the majority in the middle” has to other people’s money.

        But the simple fact is that the GOP biennial budget – even with their “Draconian” cuts – increases spending from $34 billion to $37 billion and it still balances the budget.

        This is a media-contrived “crisis” of miniature proportion.

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        Newt, I haven’t verified your numbers, but I suspect this goes back to the issue of inflation. When we have double digit medical inflation (the biggest cost driver in the state budget right now), patients can get more money and less services. There are thousands of low income families losing their coverage for this reason, and for those families the problem is hardly contrived or miniature.

        Again, as I pointed out the other day, the average share of a household’s income for state and local government has dropped from about 18% in the mid-1990s to 15.2 percent now. I understand that you feel like the cost of government is growing and burying us, but it is not based in fact.

        Finally, not all cuts are equal. Some areas of the budget are being held harmless, or increased, and some cut deeply. For those cut deeply –disproportionately poor people, who have the least ability to weather the storm — the cuts hurt plenty.

      3. dipper says:

        John, no need to verify Newt’s numbers. Numbers offered by the GOP are all part of a shell game, anyway. You’re essentially correct that the proposed Republican budget offers to buy less, a good deal less, despite claiming to spend more.

        What’s more distressing about Newt’s complaint, though, is his unhindered use of the Republican canard of “other people’s money.” To a Republican, what’s his is his, and what’s yours is his, too. The “other people’s money” Newt recalls has been secured by decades of unscrupulous crony capitalism and corrupt trickle-down governmental restraint. It’s the money built up in tax-free trust funds, created by favorable capital gains tax treatment and disingenuous deductions, and expanded through off-shore tax havens and off-shored jobs. It’s the money persistently picked from the threadbare pockets of the middle class, to be deposited neatly, perhaps even legally, in the Swiss vaults of the über-class.

        To a Republican, tax and commerce law, already tilted drastically toward the wealthy, must only be tipped further. Government, and the economic balance implicit in good government, must only be cut. Education for all? Ridiculous. Medical care for all? Preposterous. How would the rich retain their impregnable advantage? The thing a Republican most loathes is competition. The thing a Republican most fears is a fair fight.

      4. Erik Peterson says:


        BL, you just read a Stiglitz article in which he correctly identified the capital gains tax as the real problem. There’s plenty there to hang a good argument on… yet you apparently can’t be compelled to do that. You want to want to talk about swiss bank accounts…. under a pseudonym

      5. Newt says:

        Man, Dipper was plagiarizing right out of the Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei.

        One gets the strong sense he is a victim of Obamanomics. It’s OK, Dipper. The state still has $37 billion to support people like you.

      6. Joe Loveland says:

        I think of it this way: We’re all only one drunk driver, one blood clot, one slippery sidewalk, or one free radical away from being disabled, unemployed, uninsured, and bankrupt. Look at the medical bankruptcy rates. It happens to everyone.

        If, heaven forbid, calamity finds you or someone you love, there should be a safety net. You can look at it as cutting government or “those people,” or you can look at it as cutting the unluckiest amongst us. There but for the grace of God go Newt and I.

      7. Erik Peterson says:

        I dont thinks thats fair Joe. I don’t imagine Diaper’s atheism has anything to do with his unemployment.

      8. Joe Loveland says:

        Some things The Google told me: More than 60% of bankruptcy filings are related to heatlh care costs. The average bankruptcy filer was employed, college educated and had health insurance before unexpected ailment sent them to the hospital.

        So as successful as we and our loved ones might be right now, one mishap beyond our control can quickly put any us into a financial free fall. It’s a free fall that in the blink of an eye can move us from “the productive class” to “those leaches living off the government.”

        So, there are altruistic reasons to worry about putting big holes into the safety net, but, if that doesn’t do it for you, there are some selfish reasons too.

      9. Newt says:

        Signs that liberalism has failed are everywhere – Cuba, Greece, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Spain, France, Minneapolis, public education, healthcare, on and on.

        Can we try something new, something not predicated on penalizing achievement?

        Speaking of which … a recent survey of university honor students asked them if they would be willing to give up part of their 4.0s so that C students could enjoy a higher GPA. And guess what? Even the most militant liberal students opposed the idea.

        I wonder why they wouldn’t help the less fortunate.

      10. Joe Loveland says:

        Newt my friend, I worry about you whey you hyperventilate about Cuba, Greece and the U.S. in the same breath. Government spending as a % of GDP is four times higher in Cuba (81%) than the U.S. (20%), and two and a half times higher in Greece (51%) than the U.S. HUGE difference in magnitude.

        If the U.S. government spending as a percentage of GDP gets to 50-81%, I’ll get out my worry beads and come sit with you. But for now, lumping those three countries into the same category of government involvement doesn’t feel credible to me.

        I hope that gives you comfort. After all, I’d hate to lose you to a small government garden spot like Afghanistan (9.2% of GDP on govt spending ) or Bangladesh (12%).

  2. Joe Loveland says:

    Interesting lede in today’s Pioneer Press:

    “Although Gov. Mark Dayton’s tax-the-rich plan appears to be all but dead in the Republican-controlled Legislature, a couple hundred supporters packed a hearing room Tuesday night to argue the state needs more revenue to meet Minnesota’s needs.”

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      That article is so interesting I just wanted to excerpt a little for people not inclined to leave the friendly confines of the Crowd:

      (Two hundred and fifty eight congressional “No New Taxes”) Pledge signers voted almost unanimously in favor of large and permanent tax cuts. Given that pattern, and the fact that they have removed tax increases as a possible solution to fiscal problems, it would be plausible to think that signers have been especially vigilant in guarding against spending increases. The data show, however, the opposite. Six out of every seven signers voted in favor of the Medicare prescription drug bill last fall, the largest entitlement increase in decades. About 80 percent of pledge signers who voted on all of the bills supported all of the recent tax cuts, two proposals to make them permanent, and the medicare bill. Most of these 2 bills were strongly opposed by non-signers.

      Besides supporting the medicare bill, pledge signers also favored the farm bill in 2001 by a margin of 3:1. Even after three years of falling revenues and increasing spending, three- quarters of the signers who voted supported the recent, pork-laden highway bill in the House.

      These voting patterns are hard to reconcile with a “starve the beast” theory, since the same people who voted for permanent tax cuts also voted for permanent spending increases, and did so at a time of projections of falling long-term revenues. The voting patterns are also inconsistent with fiscal responsibility.

  3. Mike Kennedy says:

    Great article. This points out the idiocy of thinking there will be any meaningful tax reform or spending reform. Yes, idiocy, because anyone who believes this will happen is, well…….I won’t go there.

    Days of meaningful reform like 1986 are long gone and the entitlement train is too big to stop. I have to laugh that we are even attempting to have a serious discussion about either.

    I did, however find dippy or dippers post to be good comedy. Capital gains is the one thing that has been proven to bring in more money if you cut the tax on it….even Obama was forced to admit that.

    Swiss bank accounts? What James Bond movie have you been watching? Casino Royal? Yeah, there’s a lot of rich people in the U.S. hiding money in offshore accounts. Now there’s an idea that might bring in some revenue, right up there with digging into our couch cushions and car seats for all loose change.

    1. Newt says:

      The economy is so bad out there that even John Kerry had relocate his 76′ yacht’ from Hyannis to New Haven to avoid Massachussetts tax.

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    in the year since this poll was done, support for the Dayton approach has gotten stronger.

    In a Star Tribune poll released today, 63% want Dayton’s balanced approach of service reductions and tax increases while only 27% want a cut only approach — more than a 2-to-1 advantage for the Dayton framework.

    No one ever loves tax increases, but the tax increase favored by the public the most is the one Dayton is pushing, an increase in the income tax for top earners (39% support).

    At the same time, the spending cuts favored the least, cuttting health care assistance for the poor, elderly and disabled (8% support), are the cuts the Republican-controlled Legislature is most heavily using. 8%! Other GOP cuts — local government assistance (13%) and higher education (15%) — have only a third as much support as Datyon’s tax increase on high earners (39%).

    The public has Dayton’s back in budget negotiations.

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