June 16, 2005
More shutdown plans

No driver's licenses, no state parks, and lots of state workers without jobs. That's what the governor says will happen if there's no budget deal by July 1. The governor announced the shutdown plans Wednesday and accused DFLers of forcing a shutdown as a political strategy. MPR's Michael Khoo has the story:

Pawlenty said Senate leaders are attempting to force a shutdown for political advantage.

"And so I think they believe that a shutdown will cause a sense of cynical reaction that will benefit them. And I hope the public sees through that and sends our friends in the Senate Democrats a strong message," he said.

But it appears that neither side is getting the message. At an earlier meeting of top lawmakers from both parties, the two sides mainly argued in circles, repeating familiar criticisms and making little forward progress.

But DFL leaders say the talk of shutdown is premature and unnecessary. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ann Rest of New Hope says if a final deal isn't struck by July 1, lawmakers and the governor ought to approve a temporary funding bill that keeps the state more or less at current funding levels. That way, she says, the debate can continue without being rushed by the threat of a shutdown.

"We believe that that's a fairly simple, straightfoward approach to our dilemma at this point. We don't believe anything needs to be decided in a panic. And we can act in a -- continue to act -- in a very deliberative way as we solve our budget dilemmas," she said.

But Pawlenty is opposed to current funding levels, saying they're too low for K-12 schools and too high for health and human services. He said he would accept a temporary funding measure for state parks --and state parks only.

Just about any politician wouldm look good compared to the ones running Minnesota right now, and it just so happens President Bush will visit Maple Grove Friday. Brian Bakst of the Associated Press suggests Bush is looking to buck up his sagging poll numbers:

President Bush, his image ailing in a state he paid plenty of attention to in last year's campaign, could be in search of a political pick-me-up when he touches down in Minnesota to talk up his Medicare plan Friday.

He's making a beeline to solid GOP territory, suburban Maple Grove, for the invitation-only forum. The city and its smaller neighbors gave him 59 percent of their votes in 2004, compared with the roughly 48 percent he got in Minnesota as a whole.

A May poll by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis had Bush's approval rating in Minnesota at 42 percent, the lowest of his presidency.

"The president has got to mend fences with swing states like Minnesota," said University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs, adding, "He's trying buck up the party. ... He's firing up his loyalists."

I guess that's better than firing up your opponents.

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 6:33 AM