Posted at 7:45 AM on June 28, 2011
by Michael Olson
News organizations around the state are finding new ways that a shutdown could have a negative effect on businesses and individuals. A common theme in the coverage this morning is what people are doing to beat the deadline.
KAAL in Rochester checked-in with local lawmakers and found reaction that doesn't inspire much hope for an agreement.
"I'm not hopeful a government shutdown can be averted," said Republican Senator Carla Nelson of Rochester.
"Its beginning to feel like a shutdown will occur," said Democratic Representative Kim Norton of Rochester.
If you ask some of local lawmakers how they're feeling, 'frustrated' seems to be a choice word.
"Terribly frustrated," said Republican Representative Mike Benson of Rochester.
"I'm extremely frustrated," said Nelson.
The frustration hasn't distracted Sauk Rapids city employees. They're scrambling to beat the looming shutdown deadline to get state approval for a grant that would expand Coleman. The company says a $500,000 grant could bring as many as 150 jobs to the area. The Saint Cloud Times reports that the jobs, currently in China, would be focused on making personal flotation devices. A new manufacturing approach allows the process to be cheaper than when Colman originally shipped the jobs to China.
Others, like Lonny and Crystal Koepke, are rushing to parks to enjoy some natural beauty and relaxation before they close. The Koepkes were planning on coming to Jay Cooke State Park later in the summer, but decided to beat the deadline and were hiking with their son yesterday when Sam Cook from the Duluth News Tribune caught up with them.
"We're still hoping that doesn't occur," said Eunice Luedtke, park manager at Jay Cooke.
That sentiment is shared in parks across the state, including the volunteer caretakers featured in this story from KIMT.
Also making news
Miles away from the budget impasse are it's victims. 125 of them are vulnerable adult artists at the Interact Gallery in the Minneapolis Warehouse district. (KARE)
The calls are already coming in from county officials in south-central Minnesota, according to Sarah Kruse, CEO of Mankato's Open Door Health Center. If people lose health care benefits because of the state government shutdown, will the Open Door be able to help them?
Kruse's answer is an emphatic "Yes." (Mankato Free Press)
Shutdown inches closer (Northland News Center)
Superintendents left waiting, wondering (Marshall Independent)
SBDC at CLC announces contingencies in case of state shutdown on July 1 (Brainerd Dispatch)
Tom Emmer: Republicans must not back down
They campaigned on the promise of less government. Now they must lead the way (Star Tribune).
Posted at 9:20 AM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
With a Friday state government shutdown looming, Associated Press reporter Martiga Lohn posted a few minutes ago on Twitter that Gov. Dayton and Republican legislative leaders have resumed budget talks this morning and quotes Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch saying, "we gotta get it done."
Meanwhile, state employees are nervously watching the negotiations and "wondering how they're going to balance their own budgets if the stalemate over the state's budget forces a shutdown of state operations not deemed essential," writes MPR's Martin Moylan.
And, for something completely different, the HUGE Improv Theater in Minneapolis tweets:
If you are a government employee affected by the shutdown you get in free to shows at HUGE for the duration. It's the least you should get.
Posted at 10:48 AM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
MPR News politics editor Mike Mulcahy says morning talks between Gov. Dayton and Republican legislative leaders have ended. "No breakthroughs but Dayton called talks constructive...."
Discussions will resume at 2 p.m.
Lawmakers are expected to attend a 3:30 p.m. memorial service for state Sen. Linda Scheid, who died earlier this month after a six year battle with ovarian cancer.
Also this morning, a Ramsey County judge formally denied Gov. Mark Dayton's request for a mediator to intervene in the state budget talks.
Ramsey County judge Kathleen Gearin last week turned aside the request during a hearing, arguing that the role of crafting a budget should be left to the governor and the Legislature.
"The give and take necessary to reach a compromise resulting in a budget that the governor will sign requires both branches to exercise discretion," she wrote in the decision posted this morning.
We're still waiting for any ruling on what parts of state government should stay open if a shutdown happens Friday.
Posted at 11:57 AM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
MPR News reporter Elizabeth Dunbar is compiling a running list of the potential costs of a state government shutdown.
She's up to a dozen entries, recently adding:
LOST LOTTERY REVENUE: The Minnesota State Lottery wouldn't operate during a shutdown, so no tickets would be sold. In an average week in 2010, the lottery contributed $2.3 million to the state.
LOST FORESTRY REVENUE: Minnesota Forest Industries, a trade group, says the forest industry pays the state about $229,000 a week to harvest wood on state land. The industry says it generates another $655,000 a week in state and local taxes.
Got an item we shoud add? Post it in the comments section below or email me at email@example.com
The Star Tribune reports that a state shutdown July 1 could crimp the use of MnPASS Express Lanes in the Twin Cities.
The state will have to stop collecting those quarters and sometimes dollars from solo motorists who use the pay-to-drive carpool lanes in the metro area starting Thursday should the state budget impasse lead to a government shutdown, transportation officials said Tuesday.
E-mails were sent to the thousands of motorists whose transponders allow them to pay to drive solo in the high-occupancy lanes of Interstate 394 between downtown Minneapolis and the west metro, and between downtown Minneapolis and the south metro.
In the event of shutdown, the lanes will only be available from 6-10 a.m. and from 2-7 p.m. to vehicles with more than one person, motorcyclists and buses, said Christine Krueger, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Here's a link to the story.
If you're affected by this, please post below and tell us or use our handy shutdown form.
Posted at 12:42 PM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
MPR News reporter Martin Moylan writes:
A business group that represents some 12,000 Minnesota small businesses reiterated its opposition today to Gov. Mark Dayton's tax plan, charging it would make the state economically uncompetitive.
Mike Hickey is state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. He says the governor's plan would raise the state's top income tax rate to almost 11 percent, a nearly 40 percent increase.
"You just can't make Minnesota any more unappealing. Forty-seven states would have lower income and capital gains tax."
Hickey said raising taxes would discourage and punish investors and entrepreneurs who create jobs.
Dayton and the Republican-controlled legislature are at odds over the best way to craft a two-year budget. Dayton wants to raise income taxes on top earners to erase part of the state's 5 billion dollar projected budget deficit. Republicans oppose the tax increase and say they can erase the deficit through spending cuts.
A judge rules Minnesota courts must be funded in a shutdown.
A judge has ruled that Minnesota's Judiciary should continue running even if state government shuts down on July 1.
Retired Judge Bruce Chrisopherson has ruled that the state's courts should continue operating even if Gov. Dayton and the Legislature fail to agree on a budget. In his order, Christopherson said the state should continue to fund the courts at least through July 30th.
The decision comes one day after the Attorney General, the governor's office and public defenders argued in court that the judiciary should continue to receive funding. In his order, Christopherson said that due process and other constitutional protections require the courts to continue running.
A ruling is still pending from another judge on whether other essential government functions should continue if no budget deal is reached by Friday.
Posted at 2:47 PM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
A Ramsey County judge's ruling on what constitutes "essential" government services in a shutdown will not come today, MPR News reporter Tom Scheck says.
He adds: A clerk for Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin says they're working for a Wednesday or Thursday release.
Here's Gov. Dayton's list of critical services by department.
Posted at 3:23 PM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Republican legislators finished afternoon discussions with Gov. Dayton, with Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch afterward saying, "we've had some good progress" in discussions without going into detail.
Dayton and GOP lawmakers plan to meet again Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. as they continue to find a middle ground in their budget differences and avert a state government shutdown on Friday.
Talking to reporters following the meeting, the Republican legislative leaders seemed generally positive.
Koch noted Republicans are in general agreement with the governor on many spending bills, including education, and that many bills could be wrapped up by Wednesday morning.
She indicated Health and Human Services, roughly one-third of all state spending, is among the biggest challenges.
She and House Speaker Kurt Zellers also indicated there was still time to find a compromise that would keep government running after midnight Thursday.
The two sides have yet to agree completely on a two-year budget. MPR's Tom Scheck writes:
Dayton said they need to reach a deal soon if they hope to avert a government shutdown.
"We have two days until July 1, so that's the time line. So obviously the Legislature would have to act to avert a shutdown so the time is down to hours."
Koch said she's telling lawmakers to be ready to return quickly to the Capitol in case a budget deal is reached.
"We're optimistic," Koch said. "We put those gears in motion, if you will. We fired up the Legislature this week and so they're standing at the ready."
Dayton and Republicans in the Legislature are at odds over the best way to erase a $5 billion projected budget deficit. Dayton wants to raise income taxes on Minnesota's top earners to help balance the budget. Republicans say the deficit can be erased through spending cuts.
Posted at 4:28 PM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
MPR News reporter Elizabeth Dunbar has put together an easy-to-read time line of what's happened the past five weeks on the budget stalemate. Here's a link
The text is below. It's a great way to step back and understand how we got to this point.
May 23: The Republican-controlled Legislature adjourns after passing its budget bills to resolve a $5 billion budget deficit. In the days following, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton vetoes all the budget bills except the one funding the Department of Agriculture. Dayton predicts a shutdown.
June 2: GOP legislative leaders hold a hearing on Dayton's budget proposal. Dayton refuses to allow his finance and revenue commissioners to attend and announces his desire to have a mediator to help the two sides work out a budget deal.
June 6: Republican leaders offer to increase funding for K-12 education and public safety. But they don't agree to spend more than $34 billion overall, meaning more cuts would be needed elsewhere in the budget.
June 10: Layoff notices are sent to about 35,000 state workers.
June 14: The state Department of Human Services begins notifying clients that their state-subsidized health care, cash assistance, child care assistance and other programs could end if there's a shutdown.
June 15: Dayton outlines the state government services that should continue in a shutdown. The list is more limited than Attorney General Lori Swanson's court filing, and Republicans accuse Dayton of playing politics by not funding certain services.
June 16: GOP legislative leaders offer to take $200 million in tax cuts out of their budget proposals and instead use the money to fund schools, public safety and other programs. Dayton said the offer is disappointing because it still only spends $34 billion overall, forcing cuts that he said are too drastic.
June 23: Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin hears arguments over what state services should be deemed essential and therefore continue during a state government shutdown. Gearin takes the case under advisement.
June 24: Republican legislative leaders and Dayton continue meeting to negotiate a budget deal. Work continues through the weekend, but no deal is reached.
June 27: A retired judge, Bruce Christopherson, hears arguments over whether the state's judicial branch should remain operating during a shutdown.
June 28: Christopherson orders the courts to keep operating during a shutdown.
Posted at 4:44 PM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Only about 16 of 900 workers will be operating the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in a state government shutdown, MPR News reporter Stephanie Hemphill says.
The agency wants to continue three functions it says are critical: responding to environmental emergencies, notifying citizens of air quality alerts, and maintaining safety and health-related equipment at certain landfills and cleanup sites.
Spokesman John Linc Stine says a skeleton crew will respond to environmental emergencies.
"Oftentimes what happens is if there's a spill in a creek or a release to the environment, we'll get a contractor, either Bay West or one of the other environmental cleanup companies we have under contract, out to respond immediately so there's not further damage to the environment or to public health."
Calls from the public about spills or other environmental emergencies go first to the Department of Public Safety.
"They direct those calls to the Pollution Control Agency spills and response staff at PCA," he says. "So we'll have a few people working in that capacity to make sure we're able to respond."
Stine says information about air quality alerts will be on a web page called AIRNow.
Hennepin County officials have been painting a bleak picture of life in a state government shutdown.
This afternoon, they backed a plan that would:
-- close service centers -- offices where citizens get driver's licenses, motor vehicle tabs, passports, and boating and fishing licenses -- on July 5;
-- continue providing services to people with serious and persistent mental illness or who are in chemical dependency treatment;
-- continue providing child protective services;
-- continue all Hennepin County road and bridge projects.
MPR News reporter Brandt Williams writes:
Commissioner Mike Opat says it would be a waste of time and money to keep the county service centers open.
"As much as I would like to think we could stay open, we are an arm of the state and most of those transactions are enough of a share where I think - to keep them open and have people come in only to find out that they can't conduct their business is a bad scenario in a number of ways."
Commissioners also voted to authorize the county attorney to join a current lawsuit designed to protect funding for core services during a shutdown.
The county's sending layoffs to more than 1,300 staff.
Posted at 5:30 PM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Here's a quick look at some of what we reported Tuesday on the potential for a Minnesota government shutdown.
Feelings of progress? There's no deal yet but we'll take it when negotiators are using the word "progress." Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said it following an afternoon meeting with Gov. Dayton.
Dayton will meet again Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. with Republican legislative leaders.
Health and human service spending remains a sticking point. But MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire says House Minority Leader Matt Dean offered a brief but upbeat assessment of the talks. "Things are still moving ahead. That's good news."
Courts wills stay open. A judge ruled that due process and other constitutional protections require the courts to continue running.
Don't make a mess. If an environmental crisis hits during the shutdown, it will have to be managed by a "skeleton crew" from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The agency says only about 16 of 900 workers will be running the department in a shutdown, working with private contractors in a crisis.
What's essential? While a judge today ruled the courts must stay open, we're still waiting for another court opinion on what constitutes "essential services" in a shutdown. That will come Wednesday or Thursday.
Without a deal, most state government operations will stop at midnight Thursday.
Posted at 5:28 PM on June 28, 2011
by Paul Tosto
From MPR News reporter Laura Yuen:
The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women says one emergency shelter will temporarily close if the state government shuts down Friday.
Jeanne Jacobs is executive director of Someplace Safe, which operates a 10-bed shelter in Fergus Falls. She says her program has begun relocating residents and preparing in other ways for a shutdown.
"We have been limiting the number of people that we were taking this week. We were concerned about taking women and children in, and then having to route them out."
Jacobs says her organization has no reserves and needs state reimbursements to continue staffing the shelter. She has asked the state to pay the shelter by Thursday, one day before a potential government shutdown.
Jacobs says if state payments stop, her program wouldn't be able to staff the center.
"We've been told that there's no guarantee in a government shutdown that we'd receive reimbursement for any expenditures during the shutdown. We are then not able to operate because we have no reserves."
Jacobs recently eliminated 16 positions. She says the program had to deplete its reserves because the recession crippled fund-raising efforts.
Three additional shelters may reduce services. The state funds more than two dozen domestic-violence shelters. Many provide therapy and other programs.
Advocates for domestic-violence victims say the shelters and other programs could mean the difference between life and death. They're asking a Ramsey County judge to deem the services as essential.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said at least two Minnesota domestic violence shelters were preparing to temporarily close if state government shuts down Friday.