So a deal’s been struck on ending the Minnesota state shutdown, and nobody’s happy except for some armchair strategists who believe that their side has gained an advantage going into the 2012 elections. Their logic depends upon which side they’re on, and Bluestem will let the smart people write that part of the story up themselves.
It’s not the version of the truth that Bluestem shares.
Reading early analysis of the agreement, Bluestem is struck by one common identification of the tipping point that made Dayton abandon his call for tax equality and the Republicans forego their laser-like focus on social issues like abortion and voter ID (they do so get to hate the gay in 2012, so not all was lost to them).
That tipping point was beer. Time reports this morning in Minnesota Ends Its Budget Crisis, at Heavy Cost:
Not everyone in the state noticed the service shutdowns. But, this week, reports emerged that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety told beer giant MillerCoors that it could not renew its liquor license — a situation that came close to forcing the brewer to pull its products off the shelves. Cigarette retailers were unable to purchase tax stamps during the shutdown as well, threatening the state’s nicotine cache. Before lawmakers reached a deal, a special judge ruled Thursday that a popular racetrack was to remain closed.
Forbes’ Rick Ungar notes in Minnesota Government To Re-open As Gov. Dayton Caves On Tax Increases:
It must have been the threat of Minnesota’s bars quickly running out of beer and being unable to buy new supplies without their government issued purchase cards that did the trick.
And political guru David Schultz writes in Schultz’s Take: Blink: How and Why Mark Dayton lost the Budget Battle:
AfterthoughtIt was not the closing of many governmental services that drove Minnesotans to anger about the shutdown. The real crisis seemed to be when the racetracks and lottery closed, bars had difficulty getting beer, liquor, and cigarettes, beer distributors could not stock Minnesota shelves, and the baseball fans faced the prospect of baseball without beer. Perhaps life without gambling, booze, and smokes is what brokered the compromise. What would Minnesota be without the them?
Perhaps what the state’s politics have become: an arena in which gaining advantage for the next election has become more important than governing wisely. For while each political party will frame and message and spin this agreement into cotton candy stock phrases and talking points, the fact of the matter is that both sides borrowed from the schools, borrowed from the butts and ashes left in the tobacco settlement, and agreed to borrow in a meager bonding bill.
And that this was done to calm, rather than to engage the citizens of the state, speaks gallons to what’s wrong with both parties and the lamprey caste of operatives that flourishes at the side of our state government.
This isn’t a deal without winners. As Mary Turck pointed out in June in Schools pay the price:
Many schools have already had to borrow money because of the Pawlenty plan, which delayed state payments due in the last biennium. According to the Winona Daily News, nearly 40 percent of Minnesota school districts borrowed money last year, and more will have to borrow this year, because of shortfalls and delays in tax payments to schools.
While schools can repay the loans when state aid comes in, that doesn’t really solve the problem. The interest paid on the loans costs real dollars that otherwise could pay for books and teacher salaries and field trips.
Bankers are making money from the local school districts.
Bluestem will have more later. But now a lovely midsummer thunderstorm is at my window and a young friend writes from the Caribean that humpback whales are breaching the sea in their courtship dances. So it goes.