Video By Bill Sorem
St. Paul, MN, May 23, 2011. After the Minnesota Legislative session slid to a stop with no budget agreement, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, soberly reflects on the course of the 2010-2011 session.
He is reluctant to assess blame, but he did mark the mid-session letter Republican State Chair Tony Sutton sent to the Republican Caucus
“Tony Sutton, the chair of the Republican party sent a letter to the caucuses saying ‘no revenue, no taxes, no fees, no revenue of any kind that would rape the principles of the Republican party. And so I think the leaders were well intentioned, but I think they got caught up in a very, very rigid party structure that was unwilling to compromise. I think they have some new members that didn’t quite understand the … I’m not being critical.. they didn’t understand really the depth of the problem and how hard it was going to be to reach an agreement with the Governor.
Partial transcript of interview with Senator Tom Bakk :
Senator Tom Bakk:
“When you think of the whole global issue of the session, what was the final outcome, this one could have been better. And I don’t know exactly when the session got off track, but it almost … I was hopeful at the beginning. The new Republican Majority talked about they were going to focus like a laser on jobs and balancing the budget and I shared that with them. So I thought ‘that’s great’, we both want the same thing out of this session. But I think we were going along that path. We got some work done on embargoing and permitting.
“And then the budget forecast came in and we started to see what the numbers were going to be so we could start some discussions and it almost seems like the Republicans figured out at some point ‘this job’s just too hard’ and finding some common ground is maybe going to be too hard to do. Maybe we just can’t get there. And it seems like the session turned towards a social agenda probably somewhere mid-late April. The discussion was really very little about the budget in long draft and it became about guns and gay marriage and abortion and very divisive social issues and the budget almost seemed to become secondary.
“And discussions with the Governor almost never happened. I mean you never, you never got to the point where you were in the room with the Governor going through the spread sheet line-by-line … ‘I’m willing to do that, I’m not willing to do that’
“The problem seemed too big to be able to find a conclusion to. The rigidity of the principles of some of the newly elected members, didn’t give the leadership the flexibility they needed to find some common ground with the Governor and it became apparent to them probably about a month ago .
“I think their intentions were OK. And then I think they planned on, because the deadlines were early enough, to take a second bite at the apple. And then negotiate an agreement with the Governor that included some revenue in the second try.
“And it became very apparent on that Valentine’s day when Tony Sutton, the chair of the Republican party sent a letter to the caucuses saying ‘no revenue, no taxes, no fees, no revenue of any kind that would rape the principles of the Republican party. And so I think the leaders were well intentioned, but I think they got caught up in a very, very rigid party structure that was unwilling to compromise. I think they have some new members that didn’t quite understand the … I’m not being critical.. they didn’t understand really the depth of the problem and how hard it was going to be to reach an agreement with the Governor.
“I believe the wealthiest Minnesotans clearly don’t pay the same percentage of their income in taxes as the rest of us in the middle class. And wealthy people that I know, a lot of them won’t have a problem paying a little more. They understand the challenges that the state has. They understand the investments we need to make in our K-12 system in our health care system. And I don’t know a lot a wealthy people, but I bet if I polled them I couldn’t find one who thinks we should cut 140,000 poor Minnesotans off of health care. That we’re going to cut child protection services, all kinds of programming for people with disabilities. The wealthy people I know wouldn’t support that. And this notion that the ‘job creators’, the business people in the state, that they’ll move out, I just don’t believe that. I don’t believe that. I know a lot of business people. And the business people that I know, they want their employees to be able to own a home, drive a good car, to be able to send their kids to college.
“I just don’t believe that the small number of them that are there are somehow going to abandon Minnesota and abandon the employees that the have and move out. I just don’t think that’s true and I don’t think the studies bear it out. I think it’s a popular soundbyte that people use, but I just don’t believe there’s any data to support it. ”