Shutdown 2011: June 24, 2011 Archive

Around MN: Expecting parents, jobless and health care providers fear shutdown

Posted at 6:57 AM on June 24, 2011 by Michael Olson (0 Comments)

News organizations are weighing various scenarios of what a shutdown of the government will mean for communities across the state if Governor Mark Dayton and state lawmakers fail to reach a budget agreement.

Agreements allowing international adoptions could be undone. The Saint Cloud Times reports that closing or curtailing the Secretary of State's office could lead to a situation where "documents might not be authenticated on the timelines set by governments of countries from which children are being adopted. It's possible such a delay could result in prospective parents missing their window to proceed with an international adoption."

Employment picture becomes complicated in Duluth.
A shutdown could mean that the 16 employees in Duluth's Work Force Development and Training Department couldn't provide services to more than 700 residents.

"That's a large number of people in our community that will have access to these very important employment services shut off to them because of the potential state shutdown," Duluth Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery tells the Northland News Center. Montgomery adds that the city will do what it can to keep those services running, but without state support it will be difficult explains the Duluth News Tribune.

A bumpy ride. MnDOT might not patch up potholes (KSTP). Roadwork in Bemidji would be delayed if the government is shutdown for more than a week (Bemidji Pioneer).

Hospitals scramble. "Hospitals could lose the ability to hire needed personnel or renew essential medical licenses that employees need to work" (New Ulm Journal).

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Shutdown Q&A: How are disasters handled?

Posted at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

MPR News reporter Catharine Richert's doing great work answering reader questions about the possible shutdown. She got one recently on what happens if state government is closed and Minnesota is hit with a tornado or other disaster.

Here's what she found:

The Department of Public Safety is in the process of drafting a contingency plan that would be used should a natural or man-made disaster occur during a shutdown. If there's an emergency, DPS spokesman Doug Neville says that emergency workers would be recalled.

These are DPS employees who coordinate emergency personnel on the ground - EMTs, firefighters and police who are already included in the Swanson and Dayton petitions - and make sure that equipment, such as sand bags and generators get to where they're needed.

We'll feature her answers to questions in subsequent posts.

Got a question to ask or an insight about the effects of a shutdown on you or your community? Send them to us.

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Could a shutdown cost Minnesota a paper mill?

Posted at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

We're waiting today to see what, if anything comes from the morning discussions with Gov. Dayton and legislative Republicans.

But it's clear the ripple effects of a potential state government shut down will roll into all corners of the state in ways we never expected. We talked this morning about horse racing.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, (DFL-Cook) told MPR's Midday program it could cost Minnesota a paper mill.

"Where I live in northern Minnesota the cuts to the forestry budget at DNR are going to limit the timber supply...they're simply not going to have foresters on the ground to put wood up for sale."

The timber industry, he added, is "very concerned that we're we're going to lose a paper mill in northern Minnesota. It's not going to be able to function because there's not going to be adequate wood supply."

The state forestry association says more than 600 jobs could be lost after 10 weeks of a shutdown.

Listen to Sen. Bakk's comments at about the 9 minute mark


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Shutdown disrupts state park visitors, holiday plans

Posted at 10:21 AM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

We posted Thursday on the potential hassles for state park campers during the busy July 4 holiday if the government shuts down.

MPR News reporter Stephanie Hemphill this morning has a detailed look at the matter. Click on the play button to hear it.


If you're holding a reservation and plan to try and camp, please drop us a line and tell us where you're headed.


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Shutdown effect: No horse racing

Posted at 10:57 AM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)
Filed under: Courts

MPR News reporter Catharine Richert has been digging through court filings on the shutdown and came across an unexpected consequence of a possible shutdown. The horses might not run at Canterbury.

Richert writes:

It's a concern the Minnesota Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents horse owners and racers, voiced in paperwork filed with the Ramsey County Court.

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The Minnesota Racing Commission has not been listed as an essential service in Gov. Mark Dayton's petition, even though the commission is self-sustaining.

If commission members are laid-off, MHBPA worries that the commission won't be able to perform its regulatory functions. And that means no horse racing.

In its court document, the MHBPA writes that its members have already paid to race at Canterbury.

"By accepting this money, the state has entered into an implied contract which they would now be violating," the document states. "Many people, in reliance on this contract, moved their operations to Minnesota for the race season and they will be serious damaged."

Canterbury recently told investors that the shutdown might force it to suspend or close its operations.

"If we were forced to suspend all horse racing, simulcasting and Card Casino operations, the result would be a significant, adverse impact on the company," chief executive Randy Sampson wrote.

"We would lose gaming and concession revenues in excess of $1 million per week but would continue to incur substantial operating expenses, including expenses to support our backside horse population.

Without any revenues coming in, we would be forced to lay off substantially all of our 1,000 full time and part time employees causing hardship for them and their families. The shutdown would have a particularly severe impact on Canterbury over the Fourth of July weekend, which is typically the busiest weekend of the year."
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Take a look through the briefs filed with court by groups that could be hurt by a potential shutdown. See anything interesting, drop us a line.


Photo credit: Flickr user FranklinPhotos

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Shutdown could damage financial position of U of M, MnSCU

Posted at 12:51 PM on June 24, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)
Filed under: Higher Education

The University and Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will remain open if there's a state government shutdown, "but Standard & Poor's Ratings Services is worried a lingering shutdown could have consequences for the state's two public higher ed institutions," writes Tim Post on the On Campus blog.

Tim's post includes a statement from S&P and the University of Minnesota.

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Leaders ready for weekend talks, keep quiet on details

Posted at 1:27 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

MPR's Tim Pugmire reports:

DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders say they're committed to lengthy negotiations over the next two days to try to reach a budget deal and avoid a government shutdown.

That potential shutdown is now just one week away. After an initial discussion this morning, both sides emerged from Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers' office and announced they would not comment on specifics during the course of negotiations. Dayton said the format of the talks is a work in progress.

"We're not constrained to any particular format," Dayton said. "We'll see what's effective. Again, I think we've agreed among ourselves we'll get more done more effectively if we say okay, we're not going to comment on the particulars until we have a result."

Speaker Zellers said he planned to work hard and quickly. But he said he would also keep negotiating beyond Saturday if necessary.

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Teachers, students scramble as shutdown looms

Posted at 2:30 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Licensed professionals in all kinds of disciplines are rushing to get credentials renewed ahead of a possible July 1 Minnesota government shutdown. We posted Thursday on the push by doctors and other health care providers.

MPR News reporter Tom Weber says it's happening, too, with teachers and other school professionals. About 20 percent of teachers must renew licenses each year.

He writes:

State officials are encouraging teachers and other school staff who need licenses to submit paperwork in the next few days, ahead of any possible government shutdown.

Staff whose licenses haven't been approved by the start of school won't be able to work. Educators usually have the entire summer to submit paperwork. But the state education department's licensing office would close if there's a shutdown next week.

Licensing director Richard Wassen says summer is already the busiest time because there are thousands of licenses to process.

"These days remaining between now and the beginning of school - we need every day. And sometimes we ask staff to work on weekends. The longer a shutdown goes, we lose not only the time we would have been working, but there's more of a backup, as you can imagine. So it gets compounded."

The possible shutdown has also forced some juggling with some important testing dates for students.

The state Education Department is offering students who need to pass the state's graduation exams an early retest opportunity next week.

High school students must pass state reading and math exams before they can earn a diploma from one of the state's public high schools. The department will do retesting Monday through Thursday next week to try and get seniors who need to pass the tests one more chance before a possible shutdown.

The department has a page up with more information on the effects of a possible shutdown on education, including updated answers to list of frequently asked questions.

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Bachmann: Shutdown shows need for new Stillwater Bridge

Posted at 3:20 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)
Filed under: Roads and transportation

From MPR's politics team:

GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann issued a news release today saying that a potential state government shutdown shows the need for a new bridge in Stillwater. State officials announced last week that the lift bridge will not be operating if state government shuts down on July 1.

Read more here.

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Shutdown unlikely to hurt Minnesota's credit rating

Posted at 3:43 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

MPR News earlier today reported that bond rating giant Standard & Poor's is worried about the financial damage the state's public colleges and universities could suffer in a prolonged state shut down.

At this point, however, S&P does not believe a shutdown will trigger a downgrade in the state's sterling AAA credit rating, which allows it to save millions in borrowing costs. Minnesota is one of only nine states carrying that top rating.

MPR News reporter Annie Baxter caught up with the S&P analyst who follows Minnesota's public operations. She writes:

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services says it's keeping an eye on Minnesota's public university systems in the event of a state government shutdown. That's because of the systems' reliance on appropriations from state government.

Ken Rodgers in S&P's public finance department says a state government shutdown could eventually disrupt the finances of Minnesota's public universities, or even its health systems.

Rodgers says it's unlikely that S&P would downgrade the credit ratings of the higher ed systems unless a state government shutdown lasts more than a month or two.

S&P says it's very unlikely the state of Minnesota would lose its Triple A credit rating because of a shutdown.

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Met Council eyes reserves to keep buses running in shutdown

Posted at 4:15 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)
Filed under: Roads and transportation

The agency that runs Twin Cities public buses and trains says it can run the system for a few weeks on reserve cash if state government shuts down July 1.

But the Metropolitan Council is already mulling fare hikes and route cuts should an eventual budget deal reduce it funds. MPR News reporter Dan Olson writes that the council has set August public hearing dates to plan for service reductions and fare increases

Here's his story:

Met Council chair Sue Haigh says the agency would draw on reserves to maintain service at current levels for a few weeks.

"In the absence of a state budget, we're actually beginning the required and lengthy process of holding public hearings to implement the fare increase and a service adjustment reduction in the event that there is a $110 million reduction from the state general fund to Metro Transit," said Haigh.

Haigh is referring to the cuts in the Republican budget proposal.

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DFL Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the GOP transportation bill because of the transit funding cuts, saying the cuts would result in a "service reduction of 241 buses, 30 percent of the service on the street, resulting in the loss of 20 million rides, 23 percent of annual ridership."

Met Council officials say they also plan to use reserves for at least a few weeks during a shutdown to keep Hiawatha light rail, Northstar commuter rail, Metro Mobility and regional dial-a-ride services running.

Buses and rail account for a very small share of daily trips in the heavily car dependent Twin Cities.

However, there are pockets of intense transit use.

In downtown Minneapolis, 40 percent of the people arriving as workers or visitors use bus or rail.

Greater Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce President Todd Klingel wants the state's elected leaders to hold the line on and even reduce state spending.

However, he says transit fare increases and route reductions would be counterproductive, sending more bus and train riders back into their cars and on to the region's roads.

"Those people whether they're going to work or school are going to have to find other ways to get there if they choose to go and that means more cars on the roads. It's not like, 'oh it's not going to affect me,' it's going to affect everyone," said Klingel. "Our concern as a chamber is it affects our ability to move goods and services across the marketplace in the course of any day."

Another transit question posed by a state government shutdown is how it might affect construction of the Central Corridor light rail line, the state's largest public works project.

Nineteen Minnesota Department of Transportation workers are part of the building of the Central Corridor light rail line.

Met Council chair Sue Haigh says it's not clear how their potential layoff or furlough during a shutdown would affect the project.

"MnDOT staff and employees are part of the regulatory oversight of the project and we believe that the project can continue on a temporary basis without them but that's what we're exploring right now," said Haigh.

Haigh says she also doesn't know how a shutdown would affect the Met Council's road building and maintenance agenda.

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The Metropolitan Council is not a state agency.

It operates for the most part off user fees, local levies and federal revenue.

However, the regional planning body's transportation agenda includes the long awaited rebuild of the 169-494 interchange in the southwest Twin Cities, where state transportation workers are in key oversight roles.

Aside from transit and transportation, a state government shutdown would apparently not affect most other Metropolitan Council services including one of its biggest - sewage treatment.

Waste water treatment is funded by user fees and would continue uninterrupted.

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Shutdown questions? Bring 'em on

Posted at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (4 Comments)

Our colleagues who produce MPR's All Things Considered show are looking for your questions about the shutdown. They'll take them on and try to find answers and then put some of those answers on the air.

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We need some questions, though, so here's your chance.

Post a question below on the shutdown. You can also use our handy form if you want to go into detail.

MPR News reporter Catharine Richert's has already assembled some great FAQs about the possible shutdown.

Check out her work here.

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Cone of silence: Lawmakers closing doors to talk budget

Posted at 4:42 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders will be do a lot of talking over the weekend in hopes of reaching a budget deal that keeps the state government open past next Thursday. But you probably won't hear a lot about it.

Negotiators say they won't be talking much about what's happening until, well, something happens.

MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire writes:

Aimed at reaching a budget agreement, marathon negotiations behind closed doors are under way between DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders today.

With just a week left to avert a possible state government shutdown, both sides said they were committed to meeting through the weekend to try to resolve their differences on taxes and spending. They also said they wouldn't have much to say publicly until there's a resolution.

Click here to read Pugmire's full dispatch.

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What we know @ 5:30 p.m.

Posted at 5:30 PM on June 24, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Here's a quick look at some of what we've been reporting on today on the potential for a Minnesota government shutdown.

Negotiations this weekend will be quiet. Gov. Mark Dayton, Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers and others will be talking through the weekend but both sides say they won't talk publicly about specifics until there's some kind of resolution. Negotiators are done for today, calling the talks "productive."

Buses will run ...
The Met Council says it can use cash reserves to keep Twin Cities buses and trains running for a few weeks following a state shutdown. But it's already weighing rate hikes and route cuts to make up for a cut in any future budget deal.

... horses may not. The odds are good that the Minnesota Racing Commission will not be deemed an essential service in a shutdown. That would likely stop racing at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. It would be one of the more unusual consequences of a shutdown, triggering layoffs for many of the operation's 1,000 full time and part time employees and revenue losses of more than $1 million per week.

Credit worries but no crisis yet. Bond rating giant Standard & Poor's worries about the financial damage the state's public colleges and universities could suffer in a prolonged state shut down. At this point, S&P does not believe a shutdown will damage the state's sterling AAA credit rating.

School's out but a shutdown will still hurt. Teachers and other school professionals are scrambling to get licenses renewed so they won't get jammed if the state shuts down July 1. The state Education Department is speeding up retesting opportunities on required graduation exams so kids who need to pass to get their diplomas will have more chance before a possible shutdown.

Help us keep watch on the Minnesota government shutdown. Tell us what you're seeing. Share an insight or story and make us smarter on how the shutdown talk is affecting Minnesota.

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