June 29, 2005Progress?
With two days to go until the partial government shutdown, there's some progress but still no deal. As it has for months the holdup comes down to how to pay for the services lawmakers believe Minnesotans are demanding. MPR's Michael Khoo has the latest:
Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says the latest offer from his side provides historic increases for K-12 schools. He says it also meets most of the DFL-controlled Senate's concerns about preserving state-subsidized health care for low-income workers -- and actually re-instates protections lost in previous years of budget-balancing.
So if the racino is really out they have to take out $218 million of the spending goodies or find another $218 in other revenue, right? Can they figure that out in two days? After taking six weeks of overtime to get this far?
Highway rest stops are supposed to start closing today. Some of the nearly 16,000 state workers who will be laid off in the event of a shutdown met with reporters yesterday to lament their situation. MPR's Tom Scheck had that story:
Highway Helper Kevin Tucker said he won't be able to work on July 1. He says he's living paycheck to paycheck and any loss in pay will cause him financial problems. He says he and other state employees have not received a raise in three years, while out-of-pocket costs continue to climb.
The Star Tribune has put together an estimate of how much a shutdown would cost in dollars--$4.68 million each day:
A little more than half of the daily tab would be employee compensation and benefits to the 15,700 workers who were deemed unessential and who would not be working. About $1.8 million would be lost revenue from license charges and other fees not processed, including $60,000 a day in lost revenues from state parks. For the parks, much of that loss never would be recouped.
So much for the 'shut it down and save some dough' crowd...which hasn't really been heard anyway.
Another big question no one has been asking is, what do all those reporters do when negotiators are meeting behind closed doors? MPR's Laura McCallum sent me this exclusive photo from outside the governor's residence yesterday.
They're calling it Camp Impasse. That's Brian Bakst from the AP on the left getting some of his summer reading done. The fellow behind the newspaper is a little harder to identify. We think he works for an obscure Minneapolis radio station, and I have to say he's been a little cranky over the past few weeks.
Maybe these comfy chairs will help everyone's disposition, but a deal to end the session would help more. And of course, keeping reporters happy is always the first priority.