Rep. Thissen Says Middle Class Lost in Budget Deal
The House Minority Leader reported that special interests and the richest Minnesotans came away winners as the state gets back to work.
Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Richfield/Minneapolis) issued a press release Tuesday expressing his disappointment in the final budget which was then poised to be signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton. He also expressed his distaste for the job Republicans had done in 2011 prior to voting on the omnibus tax bill.
As the state prepared to get back to work after Dayton signed a series of budget bills ending the government shutdown Wednesday morning, Thissen reiterated his disappointment in the final budget during an interview with Richfield Patch.
Richfield Patch: Now that negotiations are over and the state is getting back to work, what are your thoughts about the final budget for the next two years?
Rep. Paul Thissen: The bottom line is the governor agreed to accept a Republican budget plan by accepting this idea of borrowing money to balance the budget. After Republican legislators were given seven options to do it in a permanent and more responsible way, he agreed. That’s why DFL legislators were told to leave the room. We didn’t have any part in the final negotiation of bills.
The ultimate resolution is really bad for the state of Minnesota. It’s leaving the legislature with a $4 billion deficit in the next biennium. Republicans admitted we need between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in new revenue so that we don’t fundamentally undermine the state’s prospects. Democrats said we’d do serious cuts but asked Republicans to agree to revenue increases on the richest Minnesotans. [Democrats’ plan] was much more sustainable, much more responsible. It’s tough for the people of Minnesota that Republicans decided to act the way they did.
Richfield Patch: Who were the winners and losers in this budget deal?
Thissen: I think it’s clear that the people who win are the people the Republicans are trying to protect. Corporate special interests and people making more than $1 million a year. The people that lose are average, middle class Minnesota families who are again going to see higher tuition, see health insurance premiums go up, see their property taxes go up. The winners and losers are pretty clear.
Richfield Patch: Some Minnesotans were dissatisfied that the budget negotiations were going on behind closed doors, with some public advocates even suggesting some of the state's open meeting laws were being violated. Was it necessary to conduct the negotiations that way?
Thissen: I do think there needs to be some [closed] negotiations so people can have frank conversations, but also think it’s important that those conversations be brought into the open so people understand what’s in the bills and what’s being passed.
The challenge was that so many deadlines were missed and so there was desperation. It was a very imperfect world largely because Republicans took advantage of the 20 days of the government shutdown.
Richfield Patch: Is there a part of the process at the legislature you feel needs to change in order to avert something like the shutdown from happening again?
Thissen: I think at the end of the day we have to be in a situation where there’s a willingness to compromise. The striking thing about the shutdown was that during 20 days, Republicans didn’t offer a single new idea to balance the budget. Our political system, our democracy, just doesn’t work then. I look forward to a time where there’s more willingness to compromise—that’s where we need to get.