One of the greatest political victories of Bill Clinton’s presidency came in 1995 during the federal government shutdown. When the previous fiscal year ended, the Republican controlled Congress and President Clinton could not come to an agreement over the next year’s budget. The Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, wanted to drastically cut federal spending (gee, sound familiar?) while the Democrats, wanted to raise taxes in order to achieve improvements in Medicare, education, and the environment. The Republicans refused to budge (gee, sound familiar?) and even went so far as to threaten to refuse to raise the debt ceiling any further (gee, sound familiar?) unless the President gave in to their demands. Of course, he didn’t, and the government promptly shut down. The result was a massive swelling of public support for Clinton and a general distaste with Newt Gingrich and the Republicans who were perceived as playing games with the economy for political points.
Well Minnesota, as the old saying goes, “history repeats itself” here again. The current Minnesota budget crisis smacks of the federal one in 1995. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and the State Congressional Democrats have found themselves at a budget impasse with the state Republicans. The Democrats want to fix the budget by raising $1.8 billion of revenue through tax increases on the wealthiest Minnesotans (singles making $150,000+ per year; couples making $250,000+ per year) and by cutting specified areas, such as slightly decreasing the funding of the University of Minnesota and MnSCU. By contrast, the Republicans want to achieve balance by making much more drastic cuts to government services. Amongst a variety of other unpleasant measures, the Republican plan includes deep cuts to state aid, a 6% cut to advocacy programs to abused children and minor parents, a 15% reduction in the state workforce, and a $48 million cut to special education (but who really cares about all that stuff, am I right?).
Perhaps the biggest difference between 1995 and today is that the Governor already proposed a compromise by rolling back the earning’s eligibility for tax increases from $80,000 to $150,000 and by allowing aforementioned cuts to be a part of his program. The Republican’s only form of compromise was to remove $200 million in tax cuts from their budget proposal (because we all know the best way to solve a budget problem is to cut taxes further).
The Democrats have done enough. The Republicans either need to agree to a compromise or to face the public scorn they are sure to receive if the government shuts down.