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Mondale, Carlson organize commission on shutdown

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Carlson and Mondale
Former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, left, and former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale announced the formation of a bipartisan commission to help resolve the state's budget impasse at a news conference Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at Minneapolis City Hall.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson and former Vice President Walter Mondale have assembled a six-member panel of experts to help resolve the state's budget standoff, the two announced Tuesday. 

Two former legislators are on the panel --  Republican Steve Dille and DFLer Wayne Simoneau. It has two representatives of the business community -- former Norwest Bank president Jim Campbell and Medtronic vice president Kris Johnson. 

The other two members are former state finance commissioners -- John Gunyou, who served in the Carlson administration, and Jay Kiedrowski, who worked for DFLer Rudy Perpich.

Speaking in Minneapolis' City Hall, Carlson said he thought legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton needed the help.

"When the process loses the ability to be flexible to effect compromise, then you have to have an outside party," said Carlson. "In business it might be some sort of mediation or arbitration, whatever it may be, but you need that kind of process to take place."

Carlson said he'd like the panel to offer a settlement of some kind by the end of this week.

Both former officials said they feared an extended state shutdown would give political forces enough time to launch expensive campaigns on either side of the budget impasse, and make it that much harder to reach a compromise. 

Mondale said he also worried that the fiscal debate in Washington could add fuel Minnesota's budget crisis.

"I'm afraid that if we don't reassert Minnesota's ability to think and create in this crisis, that we'll be overwhelmed by national pressures," said Mondale. 

Mondale and Carlson will not take part in the   panel's deliberations. Gov. Mark Dayton's budget commissioner will play an administrative role with the committee.

Republican legislative leaders reacted coolly to the effort. House Majority Leader Matt Dean said Republicans would be open to hearing whatever the group comes up with. But he sounded skeptical.

"Our members are made up of small business people, professionals, people from all walks of life, young and old, who ran and won in 2010," said Dean, "in very different times than when Gov. Carlson was governor or Vice President Mondale were in office."

Dean listed the recession and the housing crisis as two key factors that make 2011 different from earlier budget negotiations.

Gov. Dayton and the Legislature are at odds over the best way to craft a new two-year budget. Dayton wants to raise income taxes on Minnesota's top earners. Republicans say the deficit can be erased through spending cuts. 

Their impasse has forced a government shutdown that began on July 1.