Republican gubernatorial candidate and former House Speaker Kurt Zellers is claiming credit for getting DFL Mark Dayton to “surrender” after the government shutdown three years ago.
"Democrats, political pundits, special interest groups, and even many Republicans predicted that we wouldn't hold to our principles," Zellers said Monday, marking the three-year anniversary of the end of the shutdown. "But I did not surrender and the GOP legislative majorities did not cave. Instead, it was Governor Dayton who surrendered to us after two weeks."
Dayton and the Republican-led Legislature could not agree on the budget and sent the state into a three-week partial government shutdown, the longest in state history. The state faced a multibillion-dollar deficit and the two sides could not agree the best way to patch up the budget.
Dayton wanted more than $2 billion in tax increases mostly on high earners. Zellers and other Republicans refused to raise taxes and instead wanted to borrow money from K-12 public schools and sell bonds backed by the state’s tobacco settlement.
Dayton eventually agreed to accept the Republican plan, though remained sharply critical of the borrowing.
While Dayton did not get his way in the shutdown, Minnesota voters jettisoned enough Republicans in the next election to give Democrats control of both the House and the Senate. Zellers lost his leardership position, too.
After their historic gains, Dayton and legislative Democrats eventually did raise taxes on high earners and smokers to balance the state budget. The economic recovery allowed to state to repay all of the money borrowed from public schools.
Zellers said he still believes the tax increases were bad for Minnesotans.
"I understood that it was wrong to force middle-class families to pay more for government during an economic downturn,” Zellers said. "I'm the only candidate who has proven his strength and his commitment to conservative principles to be able to beat Dayton and the liberal interest groups again in November."