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Let's play armchair strategist

Posted at 1:04 PM on May 14, 2008 by Michael Marchio (3 Comments)

So what happened last night? It looked like the Senate was about ready to drop the big one, HF1812, on the governor, when they tabled it, passed a couple of less significant bills, brought up a possible bonding bill, and then adjourned abruptly for the night.

Here's one speculative explanation:

The Senate may have been sending a signal to the governor when it took up the budget bill that lawmakers were going to send him this stuff whether he likes it or not. If he vetoes more or less the entire session's work because a complete deal hadn't been reached, as he threatened to do (health care reform and education policy were already vetoed, education finance, tax, transportation policy and budget balancer were all threatened, and transportation finance was vetoed and overridden months ago) expect to see it on the campaign literature for opponents of House Republicans up for re-election.

And keep in mind, if the budget bill and everything else were vetoed, there would be no way to get that money for the Republican National Convention security, which wasn't even included in the budget bill. It's generally acknowledged this money would be paid back by the feds after the convention, but having to hold a bake sale to raise it instead of getting the advance from the state might not be what the governor had in mind for a homecoming during the RNC.

Also, if the governor were forced to actually do what has been threatened, and drain the entire budget reserves before he begins unalloting money, it could set things up for a much uglier session next year. Who knows, the governor may believe that he'll be Veep in a McCain Administration by then, but its doubtful such a savvy political operator would put all his eggs in one basket, and risk civil war with the Legislature for the next two year while he gears up for a presidential run of his own, as his wife, or should I say, Mrs. 45, has suggested.

In short, the DFL may have called Pawlenty's bluff, that he didn't want to unallot and have that spun in an election year to his disadvantage, and perhaps lose enough seats in the House to protect his veto.

Again, all these political prognostications are speculative, but it was an interesting night. We may yet hear about a budget deal today. If they do reach an agreement, there may be an unusually cordial, and even more unusually early end of session tomorrow. We'll have to see.

What do you MFL managers think? Was Majority Leader Pogemiller trying to send the governor a message? Do you think the governor would prefer unallotment to a budget deal he doesn't like? Who are the winners and losers if no deal is reached? Let's see some armchair strategy! Maybe Legislative leaders will take your good ideas to heart.



Comments (3)


Well, I think that the unallotment option is unsavory to Pawlenty, mostly for the reasons you talked about, but also because he would get nothing out of it but the ability to direct the cuts. And as we know, cutting things generally doesn't buy you political points, but rather alienates people. Even in the case of folks that you don't think are "your voters," its generally not a great move to be solely responsible for that decision. In a deal with the legislature, Pawlenty can get something, and then also spread the blame around to the D leadership for politically unpopular cuts.

Basically, the power to cut sounds alluring, but isn't as desirable as some might think. In draining the cushion that was rebuilt after 2002, and having no one to join in taking the blame for cuts, Pawlenty would be hard pressed to see this as a great option. If he can get some combination of a Vermillion State Park, some sort of property tax cap, the VA nursing home, or restoration of JOBZ in a deal, that would be vastly superior.

Posted by Aaron | May 14, 2008 6:07 PM


I think the legislators are better at playing hard to get than Mrs. 45 is.

The governor likes to have his cake and eat it too, and has grown accustomed to getting his way. Now, looking like he can't have it all this year, he'll have to decide what he can settle for. He's the big loser in a 'No Deal.' Looks like the legislative leadership finally has a hand with a trump card in it.

No wonder Speaker Anderson Kelliher and Senator Clark had such big smiles when they stood before the cameras today.

Posted by Nancy | May 14, 2008 11:58 PM


I agree, it looks like the Legislature may have outmaneuvered the governor, a first by my count.
Also, Aaron's point about only being able to direct the cuts, and the possible fallout from that, is an important one. The governor doesn't have to worry about reelection right now, but the 40-odd Republicans in the House do. The governor's original plan called for balancing the budget with $250 million from the health care access fund, and that might be his first target after draining the reserves if he chose to unallot. You're probably right that wherever the cuts come from, they'd alienate some voters.
And I'd be very surprised if we don't see another bonding bill make it through, with at least the Central Corridor, and probably at least one of the two other projects, make it through. My guess is the Veterans Home, even though I think the Governor wants the state park more, because a Vets home would be less expensive and Range lawmakers are mostly opposed to taking all the land on Vermilion off the tax rolls.

One thing I forgot to mention in my post was that they sent both the health care reform and the education finance bill to the governor on Tuesday, giving them enough time to try for an override, another canny move.

Posted by Michael Marchio | May 15, 2008 11:48 AM