June 21, 2005
Holding pattern

Twelve days and counting until the government shutdown. There are still no signs of progress at the Capitol. About the only news out of state government is a report from state Auditor Patricia Anderson that confirms schools' expenses are going up. Here's the Pioneer Press story:

Skyrocketing special education and staff health insurance costs are driving school expenses upward even as fewer students enroll, a state auditor's report released Monday found.

Schools are now spending about 18 percent more than they did during the 1999-2000 year, according to the auditor's analysis of school data during the past five years. The last such analysis was completed for the 2001-02 school year.

Most funding still comes from the state, but as legislative spending fell off from 2002-03 to 2003-04, many districts looked to local taxpayers to make up the difference. Local funding grew 18.2 percent statewide in that year.

Although salaries have jumped in some east metro districts, statewide they've stayed nearly even with inflation.

As for those negotiations, a meeting of the House Rules Committee to consider a bill that would have kept state parks open was cancelled Monday. MPR's Michael Khoo says Speaker Steve Sviggum is pessimistic:

Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum is inviting Minnesotans to stop by his office Tuesday to offer their thoughts on the state's ongoing budget impasse.

The gridlock threatens to shut down parts of state government if an agreement isn't in place by the end of the month. Sviggum and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are at odds with the DFL-run Senate over how to fund public schools and state-subsidized health care.

Sviggum says that a shutdown is looking more likely with each passing day.

"It would mean that we would have brought gridlock to a position of shutting down state government. We would obviously have failed at bringing together, you know, Minnesota's budget. And right now, I think it's probably more a reality than not."

Pawlenty and Attorney General Mike Hatch will be in court later this week seeking an order to keep critical services going even if a final budget isn't complete.

Even with a court order, a shutdown would likely close state parks and highway rest areas. The state would also stop issuing new drivers licenses and other permits.

As state lawmakers struggle to get the job done, the Star Tribune reports that Eleanor Mondale is engaged in a different kind of struggle:

The daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale confirmed Monday morning that she is suffering from the life-threatening disease, less than a week after her marriage to local rock star Chan Poling and just a few hours before her first session of radiation and chemotherapy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

"It's bad but not that bad," she said from her farmhouse in Prior Lake. "I've got a really good chance to beat it."

Mondale, 45, said her vision had bothered her in recent months, but she didn't believe there was anything seriously wrong until a camping trip May 16.

Around 4 a.m., she awoke with the first seizure she ever had, followed by another 10 minutes later. There was no cell-phone service in the area, so she and her friend had to wait until the sun rose so they could hike out and call for help.

Doctors soon determined that Mondale had two tumors, both in her frontal lobe, and on May 31 they were found to be cancerous.

Not much else to say today. Let's hope for better news tomorrow.

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 6:22 AM