Mondale, ex-Minnesota governor form panel to offer budget plan

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 05, 2011 2:15 PM
Mondale, ex-Minnesota governor form panel to offer budget plan

By Todd Melby

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - On the fifth day of a Minnesota government shutdown, former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale and a former Republican governor said they had formed a bipartisan committee to offer suggestions to solve the budget standoff.

Calling the situation a "severe crisis" and a "deadlocked train wreck," Mondale said he hoped the six-person unofficial committee could offer a solution before the state is "overwhelmed by national pressures."

Minnesota's Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders failed to untangle the state from a $5 billion deficit before a July 1 deadline. Dayton wants to raise taxes on millionaires. Republican leaders insist on cuts to bridge the funding gap.

As a result, about 22,000 government workers have been laid off and state offices and parks have been shuttered.

Former Republican Governor Arne Carlson said he was worried outside political pressures will make compromise unlikely and hoped the panel could unveil a "third approach" on Friday.

"Our fear is large national interest groups will cause a freezing of attitudes, with both sides digging in, making it difficult to compromise," Carlson said.

Added Carlson, "Swiftness is vital."

That's why Carlson called Dayton over the holiday weekend to suggest a new approach. A Dayton spokeswoman said the governor "welcomes the active involvement of anybody who is willing to put new ideas on the table."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said she would welcome any committee advice "that helps to solve this state budget deficit in a fiscally responsible way."

The committee, which is made up of business executives, former legislators, a professor and a city manager, will begin meeting tomorrow. Neither Mondale nor Carlson will serve on the unofficial board. Its meetings will not be open to the public.

"We need a plan this is slightly distasteful to both sides," Carlson said.

When asked which political party is to blame for the current shutdown, Carlson demurred.

"It's a subject I'd discuss after a (budget) resolution, but not before."

Mondale, seemed to wish for a return to earlier days.

"I love Minnesota," Mondale said. "I think we are special. This state has always been a little different and as far as I'm concerned better than other states."

The committee members are James R. Campbell, former Norwest Bank president; B. Kristine Johnson, president of Affinity Capital Management; Jay Kiedrowski, University of Minnesota senior fellow; Stephen Dille, former Republican state senator; Wayne Simoneau, former Democratic state representative and John Gunyou, Minnetonka, Minnesota city manager.

(Editing by David Bailey)