Shutdown 2011: June 30, 2011 Archive

Around MN: no deal

Posted at 7:53 AM on June 30, 2011 by Michael Olson (0 Comments)

Talks between Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers ended last night without a deal. The shutdown inches closer by the moment. Parties have until midnight to reach an agreement. In the meantime, people across the state are getting a lesson in the role state government plays in their daily lives.

Parents rush to find childcare options
Duluth News Tribune: Child care assistance did not make the list of "critical core functions" that will be funded during a shutdown and that means, starting July 1, parents will not receive the assistance.

Without that assistance, Amber Stewart and thousands of parents around the state could be stuck trying to make up the difference or find themselves without child care.

"It's a nightmare," Stewart said Wednesday as she picked up her children, Emma Lightfeather, 5, Brandon Lightfeather, 4, and Samuel Lightfeather, 13 months, from Little Treasures Childcare and Family Center. "I don't know where I'd get the money to pay out of pocket."

Minn. shutdown would cripple job programs for at-risk youths

"I think it's going to be astonishing to see the impact this has" -- Rita Borchert, youth program manager for Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Service.

A state government shutdown could swiftly become damaging for the at-risk youths who participate in the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's youth job programs, say those who work with the programs (West Central Tribune).

Another long day at licensing centers expected

"We've already experienced tremendous lines in the drivers license portion of the office. ... The state exam station has just been buried" -- Patty O'Connor, Blue Earth County's director of taxpayer services (Mankato Free Press).

No state parks, no horse tracks and no MN Zoo

"We have had two of the best attendance years in our history the last two years, have received national and international recognition, to have all of that stop at this point is extremely frustrating" -- Minnesota Zoo director Lee Ehmke.

Rest stops closed, concerns loom for trucker safety
Saint Cloud Times reports: "Rob Williams, MnDOT's rest area program manager, said the department also was concerned about truck drivers resting on ramps of interchanges with fewer pit stops to choose from."

See also
MPR: FAQ on the government shutdown
MPR: Ruling preserves funding for health care, welfare

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Dayton, GOP lawmakers meet at 10 a.m.

Posted at 8:31 AM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

With only hours left before much of state government shuts down, Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers will meet again this morning at 10 a.m. to try to work out a deal.

Dayton and GOP legislative leaders broke off talks at 9:30 p.m last night.

The two sides are at odds over the best way to craft a two-year budget. Dayton wants to erase a $5 billion budget deficit by raising income taxes on top earners. Republicans say they can erase the deficit through spending cuts.

While negotiators have said little the past few days, they've indicated they're close to agreeing on spending in many areas. Heath and human services programs, accounting for about a third of overall state spending, is one difficult remaining area.

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MnDOT: Minnetonka road project must stop in shutdown

Posted at 9:38 AM on June 30, 2011 by Elizabeth Dunbar (1 Comments)
Filed under: Cities, Roads and transportation

Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel says the Bren Road/Highway 169 project in Minnetonka can't continue during a shutdown, despite the city's argument that it is fully managing and inspecting the project.

Minnetonka City Manager John Gunyou had asked MnDOT to allow the project to continue, saying all state money going into the project had already been paid and that the city had taken full responsibility for the project.

Gunyou said delaying the project could cost taxpayers up to $3 million.

But in a letter, Sorel cited the signed agreement between MnDOT and the city, saying the state has the authority to stop a construction project within the state's right-of-way "at any time, with or without cause."

He said MnDOT won't be able to conduct oversight or authorize changes to the project. The state also won't be able to assure the federal government that construction activities on part of the National Highway System comply with federal requirements.

"MnDOT still has substantial authority and responsibility related to the construction of this project that it will be unable to exercise in the event of a shutdown," Sorel wrote.

Gunyou said in a written statement that the city is disappointed with the decision.

"We continue to believe there are no real financial, engineering or administrative reasons why this important project should not proceed, with or without a state shutdown," Gunyou said.

"We remain hopeful that the governor and legislature will reach an agreement to avert a shutdown, and will continue to evaluate our options on a day-by-day basis, with our primary focus on how best to minimize any unnecessary additional expense to our taxpayers," he said.

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DNR: We're beginning state park shutdown process

Posted at 9:21 AM on June 30, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)
Filed under: Parks and Outdoors

From a DNR press release:

"The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will begin taking steps to close its state park facilities in the event legislators and the governor are unable to reach a budget agreement. Without a deal, state park campgrounds will be closing at 4 p.m. today."

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It's getting harder to find open rest stops in Minnesota

Posted at 9:29 AM on June 30, 2011 by Elizabeth Dunbar (0 Comments)
Filed under: Roads and transportation

A listener called the newsroom early this morning to report "closed" signs outside of a rest area along Interstate 90 in southern Minnesota.

The shutdown isn't supposed to start until tomorrow, so I called MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht to find out what was going on.

He says shutting down the dozens of rest areas in the state is "a process," so a few in greater Minnesota were closed yesterday and even more are being closed today.

"The way we do that is we'll close down the entrance and then we need to wait for a period of time until a rest area gets cleared out, because people do use those rest areas to rest, and then we'll barricade the exits as well," Gutknecht said.

All rest areas will be closed by this evening.

Gutknecht says construction sites around the state will also "buttoned up" today because of the possible shutdown. And for Twin Cities commuters, congestion could be an issue tomorrow because ramp meters won't be working. Also, there won't be any way for people to check traffic conditions before leaving home because MnDOT traffic cameras will be off.

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Talks. On.

Posted at 10:08 AM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

MPR political editor Mike Mulcahy confirms talks have resumed between Gov. Dayton and Republican legislative leaders.

Less than 14 hours to go now.

From the Minnesota House Public Information Services department.

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House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch make their way into Gov. Mark Dayton's office June 30, the last day to negotiate a budget agreement to avert a state government shutdown.

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House Minority Leader Paul Thissen makes his way through the crowd in front of Gov. Mark Dayton's office to begin budget negotiations with Republican legislative leaders June 30

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Hours away from Minnesota's largest single layoff?

Posted at 10:15 AM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

As Republican lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton meet to try and avert a state government shutdown, we are looking at the largest single layoff in Minnesota history, says AFSCME Council 5, the largest state employee union.

About 23,000 state workers will be laid off tomorrow if there's no budget deal to keep government open. Roughly 12,000 will continue to work, mainly those in public safety and health, "and the state's core financial and computer infrastructure," AFSCME said this morning.

A court order also ordered judicial branch employees and public defenders to stay on the job.

Here's AFSCME's count of how many will continue to work in Minnesota government by department, based on the court order this week.

* Administration: 137 out of about 480
* Corrections: 3601 out of about 4,250
* Commerce: 16 out of about 320
* DEED and Public Facilities Authority: 696 out of about 1,800
* Dentistry Board: 6.5 out of about 10
* Education: 6 out of about 400
* Enterprise Technology: 95 out of about 300
* Governor's office: 21 out of about 40
* Health: 189 out of about 1,490
* Housing Finance: 160 out of about 205
* Human Services: 5,165 about of about 6,650
* Iron Range Resources: 4 out of about 70
* Labor and Industry: 32 about of about 450
* Military Affairs: 150 out of about 280
* Management and Budget: 183 out of about 350
* Minnesota Zoo: 150 out of about 350
* Natural Resources: 220 out of about 2,665
* Ombudsman for Mental Health and Development Disabilities: 16 out of about 20
* Office of Higher Education: 2 out of about 75
* Perpich Center for Arts Education 3 out of about 85
* Pollution Control Agency: 13 out of about 925
* Public Safety: 1,031 out of about 2,060
* Public Utilities Commission: 3 out of about 50
* Revenue: 43 out of about 1,475
* Sentencing Guidelines Commission: 1 out of about 6
* State Academies: 110 out of about 290
* Transportation: 217 out of about 4,970

MPR News reporter Martin Moylan wrote a detailed piece in early June looking at the prospects of mass state government layoffs.

He noted that "Minnesota state government hired fewer new employees in fiscal year 2010 than at any time in the past 10 years. New hires were down nearly 20 percent compared with the previous year. The state workforce may become even leaner, given recent hiring trends and a push by some Republicans to cut the state workforce by 15 percent over four years."

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As deadline looms, 'non essential' workers worry

Posted at 11:03 AM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Reporter Matt Sepic tapped MPR's Public Insight Network to reach out to state employees facing life without a paycheck if the government shuts down at the end of today. Read his story below or press the play button below to hear it.

Deepa DeAlwis says she understands why she failed to make the cut of essential state employees. DeAlwis works for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in St. Paul, helping to clean up contaminated groundwater at old industrial and military sites.

She regards her work as essential to people's long-term health. A small number of MPCA employees who deal with chemical spills and other emergencies will stay on the job. But DeAlwais says no one will die if she misses work for awhile.

"My job isn't to stop this chemical that's just spilled from going into the river or the lake nearby. My job is to deal with the stuff that we've dumped for the last 60 years into our ground."

DeAlwais says she loves her job, but now her biggest concern is paying the bills. She's the sole provider for her two children, and says she's been watching every penny for months in anticipation of a shutdown. She's even cut out simple summertime pleasures like ice cream.

"It's going to be a very boring summer for my children, because unless it's free, I can't do it."

Financial concerns are on the minds of most state workers facing layoffs. Ryan Patrick of Duluth works for the Department of Corrections. While guards at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility where he works have been deemed critical, Patrick , a drug and alcohol counselor, still isn't sure if he'll be getting a paycheck.

Patrick says if he is laid off and a shutdown lasts a long time, he and his wife may have to borrow money from family to pay their mortgage. But Patrick says he's especially concerned for the inmates he counsels.

"A lot of these guys are getting toward the ends of their sentences, and they're all looking at getting out and getting into work release and getting released back into the community. And from my perspective, helping these guys and providing treatment for them is essential when they go into corrections."

At many state agencies the mood has been anxious. But Diana Rae Evensen says at the management and budget office, things have been suprisingly normal -- mainly because it's been so busy. She says despite the turmoil at the Capitol morale has been OK.

I know that what I do is important. And I know that it's not my bosses or the management here that is wanting to shut us down. It's just the political reality between the two political parties and the legislature and the executive branch.

But Evensen is even more concerned than the others about how she'll make ends meet. She and her husband filed for bankruptcy this year, so getting credit is difficult. On top of that, two of Evensen's sons are unemployed, and she supports an extended family of seven.

Unlike Diana Rae Evenson, Mike Lang is single. He shares a home with his brother and has enough savings to weather a shutdown. He's more concerned that his job at two Department of Economic Development workforce centers could be eliminated once there's a budget compromise.

The threat of losing our jobs seems a lot more real, even though some of us have been with the state for - I myself have been with it for 12 years, and some longer. There's still concern over what might happen.

But Lang says even if he does wind up unemployed, he can use some of the skills he's learned in 12 years of helping others find work.

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Morning budget talks end. No return scheduled

Posted at 11:20 AM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire says morning talks between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers have broken up after an hour and 15 minutes. There is no schedule to return to the bargaining table.

About 12.5 hours left before much of state government shuts down.

Here was the scene this morning as lawmakers walked in to negotiations, from the Minnesota House Public Information Services department.

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House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch make their way into Gov. Mark Dayton's office June 30, the last day to negotiate a budget agreement to avert a state government shutdown.

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House Minority Leader Paul Thissen makes his way through the crowd in front of Gov. Mark Dayton's office to begin budget negotiations with Republican legislative leaders June 30

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Court solicits comments on what to do with shutdown lawsuits

Posted at 11:37 AM on June 30, 2011 by Elizabeth Dunbar (1 Comments)
Filed under: Courts

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lorie Gildea is weighing in on what should be done with the shutdown-related lawsuits piling up against Gov. Mark Dayton's administration.

Several lawsuits, including one by Canterbury Park, have been filed in several different counties. Dayton's attorney, David Lillehaug, is asking the courts to order all lawsuits related to the shutdown to be heard before Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin. Consolidating the cases would be more efficient and lessen the burden on the governor and Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, Lillehaug said.

In an order issued Thursday, Gildea instructed anyone wishing to respond to Lillehaug's argument to contact the clerk of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by noon today.

In his motion, Lillehaug said assigning the cases to Gearin "is not only advisable, it is necessary to prevent the waste of party and judicial resources, unmanageable litigation, and inconsistent judgments."

Besides Canterbury Park, the Minnesota Zoo and Minnesota Harness Racing are suing the Minnesota Management and Budget. All of the parties are concerned about lost revenue during a shutdown, which would come during the upcoming 4th of July weekend.

Gearin ruled Wednesday that only core critical functions of government would continue during a shutdown. She said the zoo should close and said state regulators who oversee horseracing were not essential.

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Loggers, others sue over shutdown hardship

Posted at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Minnesota loggers are suing the state, arguing that halting timber harvesting in state forests during a government shutdown would violate contracts they have with the state.

The loggers are among several groups suing now that stand to lose money because their links to state government have been deemed by a court as non-essential in a shutdown.

Canterbury Park, the Minnesota Zoo and Minnesota Harness Racing are also suing the state, concerned about lost revenue during a shutdown, which would come during the upcoming 4th of July weekend.

As it stands now in a shutdown, loggers won't be able to generate revenue and meet their financial obligations, putting their businesses in peril, The Minnesota Timber Producers Association says.

Here's a post we put up last week on the issue: Could a shutdown cost Minnesota a paper mill?

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Shutdown rally calls for lammakers to do more for poor

Posted at 12:01 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

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Monique Dubos of Minneapolis joined hundreds of others for a rally against the state government shutdown at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. Thursday, June 30, 2011. (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson)

MPR News reporter Stephanie Hemphill writes:

A crowd of about 500 members of unions, religious groups, and nonprofit organizations demonstrated at the state Capitol today over the looming government shutdown.

They called on the Legislature to come up with a budget that's fair to Minnesota's poorer citizens.

Mary Cecconi from Parents United said the promise to hold education harmless is hollow because it takes too much from other important programs.

Cherise Payton came from Duluth to tell the crowd that as a formerly homeless person, she relies on medical assistance to keep her life on track.

"With good health care, I have begun to treat myself with dignity and respect that I deserve."

Other speakers urged participants to call their legislators to urge a budget solution that includes progressive taxation.

The rally was organized by Invest in Minnesota, a coalition of faith, labor, and nonprofit groups.

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Understand the state budget mess in 3 minutes

Posted at 5:00 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (58 Comments)

My MPR colleagues Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom are absolutely great at breaking down complex issues. Today they take on the state budget mess. Mouse over the box below, click the play button and check it out.

In two minutes, 53 seconds you'll be smarter about the budget and the challenges we all face.


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12:30 p.m.: Republicans, Dayton resume budget talks

Posted at 12:32 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

Republicans legislative leaders are meeting now with Gov. Mark Dayton on the budget.

Talks this morning broke up after an hour and 15 minutes.

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Minnesota Zoo hopes to remain open

Posted at 12:51 PM on June 30, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)
Filed under: Parks and Outdoors

zooclosed.jpg
(via Minnesota Zoo)

From MPR News reporter Jess Mador:

Minnesota Zoo officials are hoping to keep the zoo open despite a state government shutdown.

Zoo officials said they have enough revenue to operate for at least two months without any additional state funding. Zoo director Lee Ehmke wants to make this argument before a special master appointed by the court.

Ehmke said more than 70 percent of the zoo's $21 million budget comes from earned revenue and contributions.

"We want everyone to know that regardless of any of the outcomes here the animals in our care will continue to be cared for at very high levels and the site that we will hopefully be inviting lots of people back to soon will be cared for and kept in great condition so people don't need to worry about the animals at the zoo," said Ehmke.

The zoo filed a lawsuit seeking to remain open during a shutdown, said Ehmke.
______________________

The Minnesota Zoo has answers to Frequently Asked Questions about effect on the zoo of a possible government shutdown. Here's a link.

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1:05 p.m.: GOP, Dayton meeting ends; more expected

Posted at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

MPR's Tom Scheck reports that GOP leaders have left a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton. More meetings are expected but nothing's scheduled.

Fewer than 11 hours to go before a state government shutdown.

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MN Secretary of State staying open in shutdown

Posted at 1:31 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie today said his office will stay open in a shutdown, per a judge's ruling earlier this week.

Office of the Secretary of State services include Uniform Commercial Code filings, business services and election administration.

MPR News reporter Annie Baxter explains says it's important to business to keep the Secretary of State's office open. "Banks rely on the Secretary of State's office for filing paperwork crucial to the commercial lending process.And entrepreneurs need to go through the office to start a business."

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Movement?

Posted at 1:51 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

The Politics in Minnesota website a few minutes ago tweeted:

DFL senator at Capitol: "I got the call. I'm back. I don't know why I'm here."

Don't know any more.

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State to halt Superior beach monitoring as E. Coli grows

Posted at 2:15 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

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The Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program will be suspended if Minnesota state government shuts down at midnight, Minnesota Department of Health officials said this afternoon.

The move come just days after the department warned that five northeastern beaches have dangerously high levels of E. coli bacteria.

Absent monitoring, the Health Department offered some helpful hints to would-be swimmers.

-- After a heavy rainfall, wait 24 hours before swimming
-- Shower after swimming or recreating at the beach
-- Do not swallow beach water
-- Try to keep your face and head out of the water, or if possible wear ear plugs and goggles
-- Do not swim if you are sick or if you have a weakened immune system

Contact with E. coli in the water could lead to gastrointestinal illnesses, or skin and eye infections.

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'Special Master' hearings set to start Friday

Posted at 8:28 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz was named Special Master in a court order earlier this week. She'll be refereeing issues that come up as part of a state government shutdown.

She has meetings set for Friday and Tuesday.

Minnesota loggers, horse groups and others are suing the state, arguing that their industries are being severely damaged by decisions made to date about which government services will stay open in a shutdown and which will not.

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Remember that Giants Ridge golf date?

Posted at 2:40 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Now they've done it!

A government shutdown tonight will close down all Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board operations including the Giants Ridge golf courses in Biwabik. Those are the renowned Legend and Quarry courses

The hiking and biking trails and disc golf course are included in the other fun stuff you won't get to do at Giants Ridge.

"We do not know how long service will be interrupted. We have had to plan for the worst and now hope for the best." IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich said in a prepared statement.

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GOP, Dayton talks done after 10 minutes; more expected

Posted at 3:22 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

The latest meeting between Gov. Dayton and legislative Republicans is over now after about 10 minutes, MPR News political editor Mike Mulcahy says.

MPR's Tom Scheck says no new talks are scheduled at this point but talks are expected to happen later today.

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MnDOT traffic cams already off?

Posted at 3:28 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

A couple of people on Twitter noticed that the Minnesota Department of Transportation highway cameras in the Twin Cities appear to be turned off already in advance of a midnight government shutdown.

I don't spend a lot of time watching traffic. But it's weirdly unsettling for some reason that I can't see it.

trafficcam.jpg

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8 hours to shutdown; can it be stopped?

Posted at 4:00 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

A state government shutdown is eight hours away and it's unclear if DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders can reach a budget deal in order to prevent it.

Some rank-and-file legislators are talking though, and they describe a budget impasse that remains as deep and wide as it's been for months.

Here's a detailed story on where we stand from MPR News political reporter Tim Pugmire.
_____________________

Gov. Dayton hasn't faced reporters for two days and Republican House and Senate leaders remain tight-lipped when they walk in and out of budget meetings. Both sides agreed last Friday not to comment on negotiations specifics while the talks continued, and they've largely stayed true to that pledge.

Other legislators, who are not directly involved in the negotiations, are willing to talk. Many are in their offices waiting to go to work if an agreement is reached and the governor calls a special session. Republican Representative Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa said he thinks the mood of his caucus is unchanged. He said Republicans want to hold down spending.

"We gave a $34 billion budget proposal to the governor, $4 billion more in state tax spending than the current biennium," he said. "Minnesotans are saying that's enough."

The conflict between Republicans' refusal to spend more than $34 billion over the next two years, and Dayton's proposed income tax increase on top earners is the main driver of the budget impasse.

It looks like seven consecutive days of closed-door negotiations, not to mention five months of the regular legislative session, haven't been enough to resolve that conflict.

DFL Senator David Tomassoni of Chisholm said he's frustrated by the looming shutdown, and he's pointing the finger at Republicans. Tomassoni said from his perspective, Republicans haven't been willing to compromise.

"They're obviously not interested in keeping government running, because they have not responded to any of Governor Dayton's attempts to compromise," he said. "So, I'm just frustrated."

Tomassoni said many of his Iron Range constituents support Dayton's tax increase and they don't want the governor to back down any further, even if it that means a shutdown.

But Republican legislators said they've been hearing from their constituents too. Republican Representative Dan Fabian of Roseau said he's doing his best to represent his northwestern Minnesota district.

"You know, I'm hearing both sides obviously. But you know the majority of what I get from back in my district in 1A is to hold firm on our budget proposal. So, that's kind of where I'm at."

With the clock ticking, Fabian said he was still trying to be optimistic about negotiations. He said nobody will benefit from a government shutdown.

DFL Representative Tom Huntley of Duluth is mostly pessimistic. He said he thinks a shutdown is now unavoidable. Huntley, who has been involved in some of the negotiations related to health and human services spending, said the main sticking point is still revenue.

"The governor has his income tax proposal, which 70 percent of the public supports. But I just don't see the Republicans ever doing that," he said. "There are some other revenues that we might be able to get, which I don't really like, but they're better than a government shutdown. That's surcharges on health care issues."

Huntley said he thinks Minnesotans will be mad about a government shutdown, and he said they ought to be mad. Non-essential state government services will begin stopping at midnight, and thousands of state workers will remain off the job until the governor and GOP lawmakers reach a budget agreement.

Many of those workers are expected to gather at the State Capitol in the coming hours to hold a vigil to protest the shutdown.

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Traffic cams, rest stops shut, emergency trucks being idled

Posted at 4:23 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

We noted earlier that MnDOT traffic cameras were already shut off this afternoon in anticipation of a midnight state government shutdown.

MnDOT just sent out the complete list of things it does that it won't be doing if Gov. Dayton and Republican legislative leaders don't reach a deal.

1.) Work on MnDOT construction projects is suspended. Contractor equipment may be removed from the project.

2.) 511mn.org, traffic cameras and other traveler information services are not in operation and project websites will not be updated.

3.) Rest areas on Minnesota state highways will close.

4.) FIRST trucks, the emergency trucks that respond to disabled cars and motorists in need of help, will not be operating.

MnDOT says to call 911 to report a road emergency. "There will be a small maintenance crew on call to handle emergency road repairs."

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'Global deal' still within reach?

Posted at 4:46 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Lots of different views on the budget talks coming very fast right now.

Late this afternoon, it looked like Republican legislative leaders were headed back to talk more budget with Gov. Mark Dayton.

Instead they stood before reporters to renew their desire for a special session and a "lights on bill."


GOP Sen. Geoff Michel says they can call a "lights on bill." #mnshutdownless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


MPR News reporter Tom Scheck also quoted DFL Rep. Paul Thissen:

Thissen says Gov. Dayton still won't call a special session unless there's a complete deal. #mnshutdownless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

More from Scheck on Twitter:

DFL Sen. Bakk says he thinks a global deal is "still within reach" tonight. #mnshutdownless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

However, Scheck adds that no other budget discussions are scheduled and "no one will comment on where negotiations stand. It's unknown if there's more revenue on table and which cuts will occur. "

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Hennepin County says it will keep service centers open

Posted at 4:59 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)
Filed under: Counties

Hennepin County expected to close its seven service centers as part of a possible state shutdown. The centers depend on state computer systems to process various kinds of licenses.

But then a Ramsey County judge ruled this week in favor of keeping many of the databases running. So the county will continue to operate those centers past tonight.

MPR News reporter Laura Yuen writes:

Hennepin County Administrator Richard Johnson says county officials still need to decide at what levels to staff the centers.

"One of our concerns here is Minnesota is shutting down. Today, for example, you can go online, order your driver's license tags, and they will be mailed to you," he said. "That service will not be available if the state shuts down. We think that work will come and divert to our service centers. So do we staff up to handle that or not?"

Johnson says he will likely rescind nearly 130 layoff notices that were sent earlier this week to service center staff.

An additional 1,100 county employees who work in human services still do not know whether they can keep their jobs.

County officials are still sorting through what human services programs will continue during a shutdown. While the court ruling protects federally funded efforts, Johnson says some other areas that are less certain.

"I wouldn't want to minimize that there's still a lot of clients who are going to be affected here that did not get resolved."

Johnson says jobs programs and money for homeless shelters fall into that gray area.

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State Capitol now closed

Posted at 5:11 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

MPR news reporter Tom Scheck tweets that Capitol security is locking the place down.

"Capitol Security escorted protesters, citizens and lobbyists to the exit doors at 5 p.m. Security guards also locked the doors to the Capitol and are standing guard at certain doorways."

Political editor Mike Mulcahy says the Capitol is now closed to the public. Wonder if that means the governor and lawmakers can't get to their offices?

Is there a table at Perkins available for budget talks?

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State parks nearly empty ahead of shutdown

Posted at 5:21 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)
Filed under: Parks and Outdoors

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Itasca State Park is an awesome place and draws millions of visitors from around the world for the chance to wade or walk across the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

But right now it's nearly empty as campers and visitors clear out with fewer than seven hours to go before state government, including the state's 66 parks, shuts down.

MPR News reporter Tom Robertson writes:

Preparations for a government shutdown have become very obvious this afternoon at the state's 66 parks.

DNR workers are asking people to pack up and leave the campgrounds. Tom Robertson reports from Itasca State Park that the park is already nearly empty. Most of the campers have left, many before the park staff told them to.

Normally there are about 7,000 in the park on a weekend.

Day visitors will be allowed in to use the trails but asked to leave at night. Today, the shops and visitors center will close at their usual times at 8 p.m.

In the event of a shutdown, tomorrow, 150 employees at Itasca State park won't have jobs. Statewide, the DNR park staff will shrink from 3,000 workers to 220. Most of those will be conservation officers who will be the primary eyes on the parks and keep people from staying overnight.

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What we know

Posted at 6:45 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (4 Comments)

It's been a looong day at the shutdown blog and it figures to be an equally long night. We'll be around posting. Here's a look, though, at some of what we learned today.

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Talks. No talks. Optimism? For all the times talks started and stopped or looked they were about to start then didn't, you'd be convinced there was no chance of a deal. Yet, negotiators weren't burning bridges.

MPR's Tim Pugmire reported DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk remains optimistic

"Well, we've been here pretty continuously for the last week, since Friday morning.. We've had a lot of good discussions with the Republicans, and I do think the opportunity for a global agreement tonight that would prevent a shutdown is within reach."

House Speaker Kurt Zellers said a shutdown is not necessary and would be bad for Minnesota.

"Let's get the job done. Let's not shut down government. Let's pass the bills where we're close.We can come back and finish the couple of other ones that were maybe still not quite on. But it's time to call us back," he told reporters. "It's getting too close to the end. Let's get to work. Let's get our job done and let's make sure Minnesotans are ready for the Fourth of July weekend."

Dayton, of course, has consistently said he will not call a special session until he and Republicans agree on a complete budget plan.

Stuff's closed. The shutdown became very real this afternoon. Traffic cams stopped, rest stops closed, beloved Minnesota places like Itasca State Park and the Mississippi headwaters were cleared out.

20080702_headwaters_33.jpg

That one seems especially hard. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, closing Itasca has to make you sad.

The most vulnerable seem secure. A sudden shut off of state funds is bound to create some suffering, but advocates for the poor are expressing relief that health care and welfare programs will operate during a government shutdown, write MPR reporters Madeleine Baran and Rupa Shenoy.

The budget mess may be hard to solve, but now it's easy to understand. Thanks to MPR's Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom, you can now easily understand the budget mess we're in. Just click the play button below.

Oh, yeah. One last thing we know: If nothing else changes, most of Minnesota's state government shuts down in about five hours.

(4 Comments)

Shutdown planning creates confusion

Posted at 8:36 PM on June 30, 2011 by Madeleine Baran (0 Comments)

Advocates for the poor expressed relief at a judge's ruling Wednesday that preserved funding for Medical Assistance and welfare programs if the government shuts down.

But that message isn't reaching everyone. Some people who rely on the programs still believe they'll lose all benefits.

I spent a few hours tonight talking with members of our Public Insight Network who replied to questions about the impact of a government shutdown. Some had no idea they could still fill prescriptions after midnight tonight. Others had cancelled doctors' appointments because they assumed they wouldn't have insurance.

Bruce Southworth, of St. Paul, said his 15-month-old grandson won't be able to see a doctor. He said his daughter doesn't know what to do.

"The Medical Assistance will go by the wayside," he said.

Southworth was surprised to learn that the judge's ruling preserved funding for the health care program and other basic services. He said he plans to call his daughter right away to let her know.

"That's very good news because she's been really quite worried," he said. "She's 21, and a single mom, going to school full-time and working at a retail location. Something like this just throws her into a bit of a panic."

Sharon Dixon prepared for the shutdown by cancelling all of her doctor's appointments. She sees a doctor regularly to monitor her recovery from gastric bypass surgery. Dixon, 53, also cancelled an appointment to get her blood drawn because she thought she'd have to pay

"You cancel a lot of things because you don't know, and you know you can't afford it," she said. "And the last thing I need is to be turned over to a collections agency because I can't afford my bills."

Dixon started preparing for the shutdown when she received a letter from Marshall County saying she could lose all her benefits on July 1. Dixon receives Medical Assistance and $16 a month in food support.

She said she's used to getting by without much money. Dixon lives in Grygla, a small town in northern Minnesota, about an hour from Thief River Falls. She goes fishing a few times a week to supplement her food budget. Yesterday, she caught 92 bullheads and plans to freeze them to eat in the winter.

But she worries about other people who might still think they don't have any benefits. "What about those cancer patients that can't afford the chemo and think nobody's paying for it?" she said.

Although Dixon received a letter telling her to prepare for a shutdown, she said she hasn't received any letter telling her that her benefits will not be affected.

"I haven't heard anything from them for at least two weeks," she said. "They should let me know."

(0 Comments)

Optimism for a deal slipping away?

Posted at 9:00 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

UPDATE: Star Tribune: Budget deal "doesn't look likely," Dayton says

Three hours from a state government shutdown and the DFL leader that seemed to be the most optimistic earlier today is sounding a lot less positive.

DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk talked briefly to reporters and said a deal was reachable early today

Bakk added:" I would argue that the Republican controlled Legislature shut state government down."

His remarks came after Republican representatives staged a "sit in" in the House chamber, symbolically waiting to be called into session by Gov. Mark Dayton, something Dayton says he will not do unless an overall agreement on the budget and taxes are reached.

This evening, divisions seemed to be widening.

Scheck writes:

House Majority Leader Matt Dean says he wants Gov. Dayton to call a special session so the Legislature can quickly pass a "lights on" bill to keep state government running.

"We need the governor to call us back into a special session," Dean said. "The governor is the only guy who can get this thing started and he's the only one who has the keys to get us started."

Dean said "it's pretty obvious" that they are at a critical point" as the clock ticks closer to midnight.

DFL House Majority Leader Paul Thissen criticized Republicans are more interested in "political theater" than getting a budget deal done.

"Instead of playing mock Legislature the Republicans should be working to get a balanced and fair budget negotiated," Thissen said.

(0 Comments)

Star Tribune: Dayton says budget deal unlikely

Posted at 9:31 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

UPDATE: Star Tribune: Budget deal "doesn't look likely," Dayton says

Star Tribune reports:

Walking out of his car and to the state Capitol, Gov. Mark Dayton appeared to lose hope that a budget deal would come together.

"It doesn't look likely," Dayton said.

His new pessimism adds to that of DFL leaders. Budget negotiations broke up several hours ago with no moves to reconvene.

(0 Comments)

Dayton to deliver a speech on the budget at 10 p.m.

Posted at 9:41 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton will speak at 10 p.m. on the budget. Not looking good.

MPR will be streaming. Click here to listen.

MPR's Tom Scheck reports that House and Senate Republicans wrote a letter asking Dayton to call a special session to pass a "lights on" bill that would keep the government running until a final deal is done. Dayton's said consistently he won't call a session until all the budget issues are resolved.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch says they're "very close" but won't release any specifics.

Koch also expressed frustration over why the governor wouldn't call the Legislature in session and pass the bill where there's wide agreement.

"We are on the eve of a shutdown," she said. Dayton's answer, she said, has been "'I don't like a piecemeal approach.' I don't know how comforting that's going to be for Minnesota."

(0 Comments)

Dayton says talks failed, shutdown imminent

Posted at 10:04 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (5 Comments)

A shutdown is going to happen.

Gov. Mark Dayton just finished speaking to reporters and made it clear that while he and Republicans were only $1.4 billion apart on a budget topping $30 billion, the disagreement over taxes could not be overcome.dayton.JPG

"I will continue tonight, tomorrow and however long it takes to find a fair and balanced compromise," he said. "I believe the people of Minnesota are with me."

Of Republicans, Dayton said; "They don't want to raise revenues on anybody and I believe the wealthiest Minnesotans can afford to pay more taxes."

After a day where lawmakers seemed generally optimistic that a deal could be done before midnight, things seemed to unravel quickly in the evening.

House and Senate Republicans wrote a letter asking Dayton to call a special session to pass a "lights on" bill that would keep the government running until a final deal was done. Dayton has said consistently he won't call a session until all the budget issues are resolved.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch tonight said the sides were "very close" on many issues.

But she also expressed frustration over why the governor wouldn't call the Legislature in session to pass the bills with wide agreement.

"We are on the eve of a shutdown," she said. Dayton's answer, she said, has been "'I don't like a piecemeal approach.' I don't know how comforting that's going to be for Minnesota."

In his remarks, Dayton said he deeply regretted that negotiations had failed to bridge the divide between DFLers and Republicans, adding the major differences remained the same on the basic approach -- spending cuts only or spending cuts together with increased taxes on the wealthy, something he said the Republicans continued to reject.

He said he had offered some additional spending cuts and then proposed higher taxes only on the roughly 7,700 Minnesotans earning more than $1 million a year.

Republicans, he said, rejected the idea and instead offered a $1 billion revenue raising option that consisted of delaying $700 million in payments to schools and borrowing against funds from the state's tobacco companies settlement. He turned those aside arguing they did not really raise revenue.

Republicans countered Dayton had mischaracterized the offer and posted and tweeted a picture of the offer documentgop offer.jpg

With midnight approaching and a shutdown a near-certainty, the rhetoric began to ratchet up quickly.

Dayton at one point started talking about how the Republicans were willing to throw Minnesotans under the bus but protect their millionaire friends, remarks that drew audible groans from listeners in the Capitol hall, presumably Republicans.

"I cannot accept a Minnesota where people with disabilities lose part of the time they are cared for by personal care attendants so that millionaires do not have to pay one dollar more in taxes," Dayton said.

"I really believe I've done everything I possibly could and offered everything I could possibly think of," Dayton said.

Now many of the things that hung in the balance, including the closing of state parks on the Fourth of July weekend and the layoff of some 23,000 state employees, the largest single layoff in Minnesota history -- will come to pass.

The unanswered question: How long will it last?

(5 Comments)

Historical society shutters Split Rock, other sites

Posted at 11:39 PM on June 30, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

The Minnesota Historical Society tonight said it was suspending operations at its museums, library and historic sites -- including Split Rock Lighthouse -- as of Friday because of the state government shutdown.

The society said it gets more than half its operating budget from the state.

It's another blow to Minnesotans who hoped to spend Fourth of July doing a tour of Split Rock on the North Shore or at Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities. It's all canceled. State parks will also be shuttered for the holiday because of the funding impasse.

"We are poised and ready to reopen our historic sites as soon as possible after a resolution is reached," Stephen Elliott, the society's director said in a prepared statement.

Click here to find a complete list of the group's sites.

The society said it will reopen all historic sites and museums as well as the library at the History Center and resume programming after the government shutdown ends and state funding is available again.

(0 Comments)
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