Vriezen: Blaming polarizes Minnesota partisans

Claire Vriezen

It’s been almost two weeks since Minnesota’s government shutdown. The state is still without a fully functioning government. The current shutdown will soon last twice as long as the 2005 shutdown, since there seems to be little indication of a resolution in sight. This is what happens when both Democrats and Republicans steadfastly refuse to compromise.

Along with the unemployment of roughly 22,000 state employees and the shutdown of “non-essential” state services, the inevitable “blame game” has begun.

Republicans blame Gov. Dayton. Democrats blame the Republican lawmakers. Polarizing signs are popping up along Minnesota roads calling for Dayton to “sign the bills!” These same signs are then vandalized to read “tax the rich.”

One of the things that repeatedly frustrates me about politics is the apparent inability of partisans to ever admit that our favorite political party needs to compromise. There are times when it is appropriate for a politician to take a hard party line on an issue. This is not one of those times.

Republicans have made it clear that negotiating on taxes isn’t an option. Dayton has been quoted saying he is willing to compromise and consider other possibilities. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch states “there is no compromise in the area that we are concerned about.”

Now, perhaps Dayton could make certain compromises that would appeal more to the Republican legislators. He is clearly in favor of increasing taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans; yet this is exactly what is causing Republicans to balk at his proposals. Additionally, Republicans have suggested a “lights-on” bill, which Dayton has thus far opposed, hoping to settle the issue in its entirety. However, it is Koch’s statement that is particularly telling.

It is this absolute refusal to compromise (either on the part of Dayton with tax increases, or on the part of Republicans with their adamant opposition) that will allow this shutdown to continue.

You may agree or disagree with the solutions proposed thus far in planning Minnesota’s next budget, but until the blaming stops and a true search for a solution begins, Minnesotans will continue to be affected by this shutdown. While it may be unpopular with their party, sometimes politicians must work together in order to avoid dire consequences. Washington politicians found it possible while the country held its breath awaiting the outcome of the federal budget negotiations. Surely Midwesterners can follow their example.

Compromise means that perhaps not everyone is happy. But often, not everyone is completely dissatisfied. Compromise might even mean meeting together, and actually making an effort to reach a consensus regarding the budget.

Having each party and its constituents blaming the other side only serves to entrench each the idea that they don’t share the blame. If the issue is reduced to Dayton’s refusal to sign the bills or Republicans’ refusal to allow tax increases, it polarizes the parties even further, and it shifts a critical eye away from the respective party.

Both parties need to accept the fact that  they share some blame in this. Until then, I’ll have to wait to visit my favorite state park, and thousands of Minnesotans will have to wait, jobless, until this is resolved.