Capitol Math: Fiscal Note Numbers + GOP Numbers = Summer in St. Paul

Yesterday, DFL Governor Dayton reminded us that there is a lot of budget negotiating that needs to happen before the May 23rd statutory adjournment date. After all, at this stage, the Republican-controlled Legislature has passed no overall budget, has sent Dayton only one appropriations bill, and hasn’t suggested a single option to meet the Governor half way towards his position that both cuts and revenue be on the negotiating table.

All of which means that the Kelly Inn looks to be selling a lot of hooch this summer.

But those aren’t the most fundamental barriers the Legislature and Governor face. The aforementioned items eventually can be negotiated. They aren’t easy or happy negotiations, mind you. But once folks start negotiating in good faith, in the wee hours before the deadline, a resolution to those issues is not difficult to imagine.

But here is the more fundamental and unique problem that Minnesota’s negotiators face in 2011. Negotiations are not even possible until the two sides have agreed upon budget numbers. The insiders’ argument about the validity of the “fiscal notes” calculated by state government’s non-partisan fiscal referee, the Minnesota Management and Budget Office, is not the sexiest of issues. But it may just be the most consequential issue to resolve in the coming weeks.

Think I’m overstating the problem? Ever tried to negotiate with someone with a different understanding of numbers than you do?

– Loveland

March Madness At the State Capitol

As any sports fan knows, coaches routinely “work the refs” by whining to them about their rulings. They don’t do this because the refs change the calls – they almost never do — but because they hope it makes the refs feel guilty or self-conscious enough that they give you a “make up call(s)” in the future.

Politicians do this same dance. Often because they aren’t objective enough to recognize a fair call when they see it, and often because they are executing a planned strategy to leverage future “make up calls,” politicians are also constantly whining to the non-partisan referees –- reporters, pundits, and budget analysts — of their political and policy “games”.

In the last couple of decades, conservatives have particularly spent huge amounts of time, energy and resources complaining about reporters. In my opinion, they’ve made substantial headway, a discussion for another day.

Working the refs doesn’t bother me. I wish that we could give Americans the functional equivalent of instant replay to analyse the rulings at hand, but working the refs is just good old-fashioned free speech. I like free speech.

But over the last few years, politicians have taken the act of working the non-partisan refs a step further. Now they not only work the refs, they replace the refs.

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