The shutdown blog is ... shut down!

Posted at 5:00 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (3 Comments)

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The fishing licenses are selling. The ponies are ready to run. And the beer never stopped flowing.

Our work is done.

We launched the shutdown blog June 23 as way for you to keep up quickly on the state budget impasse. We took you to the moment of shutdown and then grinded it out through today, delivering as much information as we could.

With the shutdown officially ended, we're putting the blog to pasture and shaving off the official shutdown beard.

Please check out MPR's fine Capitol View blog for stories on the efforts to restart state government.

We posted a ton the past four weeks -- and got a ton of great responses and questions from readers and listeners. You made the coverage better. Thanks.

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MN Historical Society reopening sites Saturday

Posted at 4:09 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

The Minnesota Historical Society gets more than half its operating budget from the state. So when state government shut down, the group suspended operations at its museums, library and historic sites -- including Split Rock Lighthouse.

It was one of those relatively small consequences of the shutdown, but it was sad to think of those iconic sites -- especially Split Rock -- closed to Minnesotans in the summer months.

With a state budget in place, though, the historical society said it will reopen its sites starting Saturday.

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Driver's licenses, tabs, other services to restart Thursday

Posted at 3:15 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says most motor vehicle services will start up again on Thursday.

The department said technicians spent today restoring computer systems idled during the shutdown. On Thursday, the division will be able to process driver's licenses and vehicle registrations. Online tab renewal and license plate services should also be available.

The department also says:

-- All people with a road test scheduled for July 21 and beyond will be able to take their test at the scheduled time.

-- Anyone who had a test scheduled during the state government interruption should call, beginning Thursday, to reschedule their test. People can call 651-284-1000. Knowledge tests (written tests) will be available beginning Thursday morning.

-- People who are eligible to have their driving privileges reinstated will be able to visit a driver's license center for reinstatement beginning Thursday afternoon.

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Red River flood projects get boost in shutdown bond bill

Posted at 2:28 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

From MPR News reporter Dan Gunderson:

The bonding bill provides $50 million for flood mitigation projects, much of it targeted to projects in the Red River Valley.

Moorhead will receive $16.5 million. City Manager Michael Redlinger says the money will fund buyouts of about 40 homes. He says many people living along the Red River are ready to sell.

"In our case timing really is of the essence because we want to get out and do as much work as we can here late summer and into the fall and really get to demolition because if we can be demolishing properties and getting them out of the way that's less work that we're going to have to do next spring."

Other specific projects in the bonding bill include $3 million for Georgetown a small town just north of Moorhead, up to $6 million for Roseau, and $1 million for New Ulm.

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State tallying total costs of shutdown

Posted at 1:22 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

State officials are currently "assessing, calculating and compiling" how much the shutdown cost the state of Minnesota but it will take several weeks to take a final tally, state budget commissioner Jim Schowalter said this afternoon.

"State agencies have been running only critical services for the past 20 days and won't have all the information or analysis until activities resume," he said in a prepared statement.

"At this point, we'd expect to see additional costs due to factors including the execution of the shutdown, uncollected revenues, and lost productivity."

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That Giants Ridge golf date? It's on!

Posted at 1:12 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

On the cusp of the state government shutdown on June 30, we lamented the closing of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board operations including the Giants Ridge golf courses in Biwabik.

Yes, the renowned Legend and Quarry courses were shuttered.

But here's a little sunshine. The IRRRB today says that with the budget bills signed, the Legend and Quarry golf courses will be ready for play on Saturday.

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GOP leader: K-12 budget shift won't harm schools

Posted at 12:29 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Pushing back payments to schools to help close a budget gap was not ideal but is manageable for schools and will not harm classrooms, a key Senate Republican said Wednesday.

"There is nothing in this shift that cuts any (school) program, cuts any spending,"
GOP Assistant Majority Leader David Hann
said this morning on MPR's Midday program.

The budget deal delays about $700 million in payments for short-term budget savings. That's on top of $1.4 billion in payments to schools that were delayed to save money in the prior two-year budget. Collectively, Minnesota public schools are now owed $2.1 billion in delayed payments from the state.

"Superintendents will tell you that shifts are not unmanageable," Hann said this morning. "It does not take any money away from education....I have yet to meet a school superintendent who's told me the shift isn't workable...It does not do harm but it is not an ideal situation."

Superintendents and other education leaders last week expressed frustration and anger that the budget agreement would delay even more payments to schools and force districts to borrow in the short term to cover current needs. Some questioned whether the state could be trusted to ever deliver on its promise to send schools the delayed funds.

Asked about when the state will send the schools the money being withheld, Hann said no one can predict because it depends on how the economy responds. "It entirely depends on the recovery of the economy and the ability to produce revenues in excess of spending," Hann said.

Several callers challenged Hann on his belief that the shift will cause no harm to schools and said districts will have to borrow money in the short term to cover the cash withheld in the budget deal.

Hahn acknowledged some districts might need to do some short term borrowing but noted that the Legislature provided $50 per pupil to help cover borrowing costs and that districts have reserves they can tap.

Click on the play button below to listen to the broadcast

BONUS: MPR News reporter Tom Weber has a good explainer on the shift.

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GOP leaders on Midday

Posted at 11:05 AM on July 20, 2011 by Jon Gordon (3 Comments)

Members of the GOP leadership in the Minnesota House and Senate will take your questions about the government shutdown, the special session and the Minnesota budget deal on MPR's Midday.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean and Assistant Senate Majority Leader David Hann will join host Marianne Combs.

Listen in.

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Dayton: I'll seriously consider Vikes stadium session

Posted at 10:32 AM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton this morning said he'll "seriously consider" calling a special session later this year to deal with a Vikings football stadium -- but only if the details are firmly in place.

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While the Vikings had hoped for a public financing package in the budget special session, Dayton told reporters today at the budget bill signing that the Vikings deal wasn't ready to be brought forward and still contained "incomplete and unsatisfactory" information on financing.

"The notion that it was all ready to go and we held it up is not true." Dayton added. "It takes every partner to make this happen and that hasn't occurred yet."

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson has more on the issue.

Vikings officials have only said they are assessing their options at this point. Last week, though, Senate DFL Leader Tom Bakk offered an idea that could work as a compromise.

I"m going to suggest to the governor that he put together a task force to work on the stadium proposal and that some time next fall -- because the lease expires in December -- we see if we can find an agreement that we can find bipartisan support for and try to have a special session maybe sometime in the fall on that subject.

Click on the play button below to listen to Bakk's comments on the Vikings, starting at the 37:15 mark.

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State workers called back to work Thursday morning

Posted at 10:19 AM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

After signing the budget bills to end the state shutdown this morning. Gov. Mark Dayton said he expected state employees to return tomorrow.

It's official now. The state's "Be Ready" site just posted:

State Government will recall employees beginning at 6 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, 2011. All state employees should report to work at their normally scheduled time.
Lawmakers finished voting on the bills just before 4 a.m. this morning. Dayton signed them later in the morning.

AFSCME Council 5, Minnesota's largest public employee union, says state employees will be called back to the same job they held before the shutdown. "Employees will receive a written, oral or electronic recall notice. Once they receive that notice, they must report back to work within three working days of the recall date."


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