At 9 a.m. today Gov. Mark Dayton signed the state's budget into law, thus ending the longest standoff and subsequent shutdown in the state's history. During the 20 days of deadlock, partisan rancor flared, at least 20,000 workers temporarily laid off and many day-to-day services were abruptly cut off. The impasse was finally resolved during a special session that lasted into the wee hours of last night. At the time of the interview, Rep. Pam Myhra (R-Burnsville) was working on five hours of sleep.
Patch: Were you surprised by how quickly the budget resolved itself after the governor extended his on Thursday?
Myhra: I guess I expected it. Leadership said that if there was an agreement that we could override the rules. By the rules, you would read each bill once on three different days. There was really a need and a desire to expedite the whole process.
P: What has the last 24 hours been like for you?
M: We were called into session at 3 p.m. and as a caucus we wanted to go over the process and understand the bills better and get feedback from our members. After we came out of that meeting we met on the floor as a whole to get started. Then we went back and forth in a juggling act between the house and senate. To pass the bills in both bodies they have to have the exact same language. The house ended at house at 3:30 in the morning. After driving home, I got home at 4:30 a.m.
P: Are you satisfied with how things turned out?
M: I really thought we had a very good budget that we presented during regular session, with a lot of good reforms. Unfortunately, Gov. Dayton vetoed them the day after we adjourned. We've been in limbo since then because he is the only one who can call a special session in Minnesota. During that time, there have been a lot of negotiations between him and the GOP leadership. I was very thankful that he accepted our offer.
P: What do you think of the conditions Dayton put in place when he accepted the offer of June 30?
M: I preferred the budget we came up with over session. It literally took months to develop. I don't think any of us —the governor included— think we got everything we wanted. There are significant reforms in the budget, particularly with health and human services and education. These reforms will change the way services are provided fo the better. One of the reforms that ended up in the final version of the budget concerns early literacy. That is a bill I chief authored. There will be funding for that. That's one I'm particularly pleased about. On the other hand one that was dear to me didn't make it in, and that is a system of grading of schools on a scale of A to F. It has proven to be effective in other states. That didn't make it in.
P: Do you think that there is a chance this impasse could recur in two years, during the next budget cycle?
M: One thing I've heard is that the negotiation process (over the last few days) was a positive experience, with a good discussion and lots of give and take. Wouldn't that have been great if it had happened earlier? I think the shutdown was a shame — unfortunate and unnecessary. But hopefully this has been a good learning experience that will encourage us to work it out earlier, rather than to push it out and try to make a statement. I don't think it would happen again. It's been very painful for a lot of people.
P: Are you anticipating a backlash during the next election?
M: I'm not worried about it. And that's not me being cocky by any means. I'm not in it to be re-elected. I'm here to stand on principle. My goal to have sensible state spending and protect families from tax increases. I want to champion those principles. I will let the election take care of itself.
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