Shutdown 2011: July 1, 2011 Archive

Minnesota state government shuts down

Posted at 12:00 AM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (15 Comments)

Minnesota state government has officially shut down most operations, putting more than 22,000 people at least temporarily out of work and setting the state into uncharted political waters.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders spent weeks talking but could never bridge the fundamental differences over additional taxes.

It's not really clear what happens next, how long the shutdown will last or what long range effects it will have on Minnesota's political landscape. But it's here.

From MPR News reporter Madeleine Baran

With no budget deal in place, the state government shut down at midnight, forcing more than 22,000 state employees out of work, halting highway construction projects and closing state parks and rest stops.

Only the state government functions deemed critical by a Ramsey County judge are continuing as usual.

A shutdown seemed all but certain late Thursday night when Republican legislative leaders and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton broke off negotiations. Both sides showed few outward signs of progress toward closing a $5 billion budget gap for the next two-year budget cycle, which begins Friday.

Dayton and Republican lawmakers held separate news conferences Thursday night. Both sides argued that they were not responsible for the failure to reach a budget agreement.

Dayton blamed Republicans for refusing to accept tax increases to close the state's $5 billion budget gap, while Republicans said Dayton should agree to a "lights on" bill to keep the government functioning for ten more days.

Republican leaders delivered the temporary funding proposal to the governor's office Thursday night.

"The answer to the shutdown is now in the governor's office," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, at a news conference a few minutes later.

Dayton refused to sign the bill, calling it a "publicity stunt" designed to shift blame for the stalemate. The DFL governor, speaking at a news conference at the Capitol, said he offered two budget proposals Thursday, but both were rejected by Republican lawmakers.

"This is a night of deep sorrow for me because I don't want to see this shutdown occur," he said.

The governor has proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans to support more spending, but Republicans have rejected the plan. The Legislature passed a $34 billion budget with no tax increases, but Dayton vetoed it.

On Thursday, Dayton said he offered additional spending cuts and then proposed raising taxes only on the roughly 7,700 Minnesotans who earn more than $1 million a year. Republicans, he said, rejected the proposals.

Instead, he said Republican lawmakers 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. Dayton said he rejected those options as not really raising revenue.

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Thousands of state employees face uncertain future

Posted at 12:13 AM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

From MPR's Rupa Shenoy

State employees are in their first day of a forced vacation without pay. Yesterday, while Republican and DFL lawmakers went in and out of budget negotiations, the employees packed up offices and readied government departments for a shutdown.

Like most of her colleagues, Stacy Miller left work at the state Department of Commerce Thursday afternoon with a big box filled with things that made up her life at work.

"My sweaters and some food out of the fridge, resume sort of material, and some industry magazines I'd like to read up on."

Miller packed while swapping contact information with coworkers and promising to stay in touch. At that point, there was still hope for budget agreement. But Miller says most of her colleagues came to work with cardboard boxes, prepared for a shutdown. As the employees left, the community of plants they had built in their office slowly disappeared.

"What used to look like a forest in one corner with all the greenery and the plants is now barren," Miller said.

Miller oversees renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. As she walked from her office in downtown St Paul to her home in Cathedral Hill, Miller's work was still on her mind.

"The state has the opportunity to apply for some federal funds for solar and there are some deadlines coming up in July and August that we just don't know if we'll be able to meet if there's still a shutdown," Miller said. "So it could end up costing the state that way too."

On the other side of I-94, Dan Fitzgerald was finishing his work as an information technology project manager at the Department of Health. He says the department's leadership communicated constantly with employees, acknowledging the awkwardness of the situation and keeping them up to date. They even provided a checklist.

"Normal stuff -- put the extended greeting on the voicemail. Put the out of the office auto-reply on email. You know, have you updated your timesheets, make sure you leave your electronic equipment here and secured," Fitzgerald listed them. "Simple stuff, but just a nice checklist."

Fitzgerald said most of his work mates spent the day methodically making their way through the checklist. Meanwhile as the hours ticked down they listened to the radio and checked online for updates on the budget negotiations. They heard nothing through the day to encourage them. Fitzgerald says reactions around the office varied.

"Some people it really isn't phasing. some people kind of really like the idea of a break right now. and then there's other people you can tell it really does bother them."

Fitzgerald's in a graduate program for health information technology; he figures with some time off he'll get all his summer semester work done. And he can deal with a few weeks without pay -- he's been at the Minnesota Department of Health for four years and has saved up. He knows many of his colleagues haven't.

"They haven't had that time to build up a cushion. Having a week without pay, this is really going to impact their lives significantly. There's a lot of people who work for the state where that's true."

In the late evening, as the hours for a possible budget compromise dwindled, a few hundred people gathered on the steps of the state capitol. The demonstration was organized by the two major state employee unions, AFSCME AND MAPE. Most wore union t-shirts. Some waved candles or glowsticks. They chanted, "We want to work!"

Kevin Selbitschka, a six-year state employee, was there with his mother Annette. She's worked for the Department of Employment and Economic Development for 42 years.

"We feel let down by our own department. They're not feeding us a whole lot of information," Annette Selbitschka said.

Kevin Selbitschka works at the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

"Taxes are not being collected. I am home."

Selbitschka is single and he's still paying off student loans. He's been saving up in anticipation of a shutdown but he knows the next few weeks may be hard.

"You know it's going to kill you. You know your budget, you go from paycheck to paycheck," Selbitschka said. "This isn't a woe is me speech but when you miss a paycheck or you miss two, you know you're going to feel it. That's just the way it is."

The impasse leaves 23,000 state employees out of work indefinitely.

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Around MN: government grinds to halt

Posted at 5:30 AM on July 1, 2011 by Michael Olson (0 Comments)

The Minnesota state government has shutdown for the second time in 6 years after Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leaders failed to reach a budget agreement.

Here's a quick look at what news organizations around the state are reporting on the initial fallout from the shutdown:

Hike-in for state park day use
Anyone wishing to visit area state parks still can, but they have to hike in, and rentals and amenities won't be available (Marshall Independent).

Flandrau Park closes gate
In anticipation of a government shutdown, Flandrau State Park closed its gates Thursday afternoon.No camping, swimming or driving motorized vehicles into the park until a state budget is agreed upon (New Ulm Journal).

MRCI to pare employees, clients
MRCI planned on furloughing about 90 employees and 467 of its clients today because of an expected state shutdown (Mankato Free Press).

LGA call a win for cities, counties
Cities and counties across the state of Minnesota won a battle in the midst of an ugly war this week when Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin ordered that Local Government Aid must be paid regardless of a government shutdown (Marshall Independent).

Minnesota government shutdown: What's open, what's not
Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program, run by the Minnesota Department of Health: Shut down (Duluth News Tribune).

County parks could see more use in state shutdown
Beltrami County's parks could see more use if state parks and recreational areas close from a government shutdown (Bemidji Pioneer).

Exodus of campers leaves Minnesota state parks as gates close
Two little girls wore sad faces Thursday afternoon at the Jay Cooke State Park campground near Duluth. Little Katie Wigen, 4, and her sister, Kasi, 5, couldn't figure out why their family had to leave its campsite sooner than they had planned (Duluth News Tribune).

Shutdown rains on weekend activities
For those who didn't plan ahead, a state shutdown could make this weekend's activities a bit dull (Saint Cloud Times).

SMSU to stay open during shutdown
Up until 10 days ago, Ron Wood was dreading his first official day as interim president at Southwest Minnesota State University. Had a clearance from the executive branch not been granted, Wood's first action would have been to close down the institution today (Marshall Independent).

State shuts down: Impact to hit home
Locally, the Faribault County Human Services offices will be open, but there are still questions of what services can be provided. New applicants for services will likely be allowed, but getting that information to the state level for processing is iffy (Fairmont Sentinel).

Deadline passes, Minnesota enters shutdown
Indecision between top Republican lawmakers and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton will likely lead to hardship for thousands of Minnesotans (KAAL).

Families hit hard by loss of day care assistance
Subsidies pay for child care for lower income households so parents can work (New Ulm Journal).

Pawlenty suggests government shutdown may be good
Pawlenty blames Democrats for the shutdown and praises Republicans for standing firm and not agreeing to tax increases (KSTP).

Additional coverage on the shutdown can be found on MN Today. Have other shutdown stories you want added? Tweet or email MN Today.

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The shutdown on the radio today

Posted at 6:32 AM on July 1, 2011 by Jon Gordon (3 Comments)
Filed under: Cities, Courts, Parks and Outdoors, Roads and transportation

Big lineup of talkers on the #mnshutdown on MPR News today. Here's a preview of the next few hours (subject to change):

-At 7:20 on Morning Edition, we expect to hear from a top GOP leader, either Amy Koch or Kurt Zellers

-At 7:30 we'll hear from the director of the Minnesota Zoo

-MPR News political editor Mike Mulcahy at 7:40, followed by another reporter, either Catherine Richert or Brandt Williams

-At 8:00 we will be recording an interview with a state employee laid off from her job in the Revenue Department for airing later during the hour

-Also during the 8:00 hour we expect a preview of the special master hearings from reporter Laura Yuen, and we'll hear about effects of the shutdown from reporter Dan Olson

-On Midmorning starting at 9, we'll hear from reporters Tim Pugmire, Catherine Richert, Hennepin County board commissioner Mike Opat, Duluth Mayor Don Ness, St, Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk and former state representative Marty Seifert.

-Then on Midday, starting at 11: former Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, reporters Mulachy, Yuen and Olson, and House Minority Leader Thissen. Midday has also invited Governor Dayton and GOP legislative leaders to appear on the show.

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Reaction to #mnshutdown on Facebook

Posted at 7:05 AM on July 1, 2011 by Jon Gordon (3 Comments)


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T-Paw weighs in

Posted at 8:58 AM on July 1, 2011 by Jon Gordon (2 Comments)

Former Minnesota governor and current presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is chiming in on the budget impasse. From Capitol View:

"Both in Washington, D.C., and in St. Paul, the Democrats continue their thirst for more spending and more taxes, and that's not the right direction for Minnesota and that's not the right direction for our country. The Democrats are the ones that are driving the finances toward the cliff."

Read Capitol View for a DFL response to T-Paw.

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Cone of silence descends on the Minnesota Zoo

Posted at 9:09 AM on July 1, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)
Filed under: Parks and Outdoors

The Minnesota Zoo has gone #mnshutdown-silent.

Due to state gov shutdown, we are suspending tweets until the shutdown is over. We hope to resume soon! http://t.co/YIh204nless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

O, what hath the shutdown wrought?

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Transportation reporter Dan Olson on the shutdown

Posted at 9:26 AM on July 1, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)
Filed under: Roads


Q: What's happening with construction in the state?

Olson: Construction is suspended. Some congestion is caused when construction sites are up and running because of gawker slowdown, but there won't be any work to gawk at this morning. MnDOT says work stops at all of them, more than 100 around the state. Then there's a ripple effect because MnDOT works with cities and counties on their projects, so work at those sites is also suspended.

Q: What are some of the projects that have stopped?

Olson: This one along Interstate 94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul, then there's the Highway 169 and Interstate 494 project in the southwest metro. Another is the Lafayette Bridge replacement in St. Paul and the new 101 and Highway 13 interchange in Savage. Then the Highway 36 and Rice Street interchange in St. Paul. In greater Minnesota one of the bigger impacts is suspension of work on Interstate 35 from the northern Twin Cities suburbs up to Duluth.

Q: Have barricades been removed from these sites so you can get through faster?

Olson: Construction crews were supposed to leave work sites in the best condition possible for traffic movement. So that means in some places more lanes are open, but it depends what stage construction is at.

Q: What are some things that normally help commuters that aren't operating today?

Olson: First response trucks that help motorists stopped along the road aren't out there, ramp meters and traffic cameras aren't working, and the MnDOT online traffic map is down. MnPass users who use the fast lanes for a fee won't be able to, because that service is down. The high occupancy lanes are open to car poolers and motorcycles.

Q: For the construction work, what happens to the money for all this?

Olson: It was going to be a big season, and the governor said even more money would go for potholes and other problems. Construction contractors say the delays will cost money. They'll charge mobilizing and de-mobilizing fees. It gets a little lawyerly here, but that's for moving equipment on and off the site. If this drags on, contractors might go off to other states to seek work, and there might be further delays from suppliers.

Q: Can these delays be made up or do construction project get pushed into next season?

Olson: MnDOT can ask contractors to accelerate their work, but that costs extra, and a longer delay pushes things back. MnDOT has suspended awarding new contracts for at least next month so that could delay things considerably.

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State workers: Call your lender

Posted at 9:51 AM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Alex Stenback is a Twin Cities mortgage banker who does a lot of work in local media. He has a post up on his site today with some good advice: If you're a state employee who's lost her job, even temporarily, in the shutdown, call your lender and explain the situation.

"We are fielding lots of calls and emails about whether this will negatively impact real estate closings, and especially, loan approvals for those who have been laid off as a result of the shutdown," Stenback writes on his blog.

"Bottom Line." he writes, "If you are a state employee, or employed by a private company that may lay you off as a result of the government shutdown, check with your lender."

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Quick list: What's open, what's not

Posted at 6:08 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (5 Comments)

MPR's Molly Bloom pulled together this quick list of what we know is open and what we know is closed.

Know something else that's open or closed because of the shutdown? Post below or shoot me an email: ptosto@mpr.org

Open

Science Museum of Minnesota

Hennepin County Service Centers (where you can get marriage licenses, etc.)

Residential custodial care services (nursing homes, treatment centers, etc.)

Medical assistance and welfare programs

Summer school

MnSCU schools

University of Minnesota

Metro Transit (including buses, Metro Mobility, Transit Link)

DVS license tab renewal and driver's license renewal

911

State Patrol

Courts

Corrections facilities

City and county services (trash removal, fireworks, police, fire, etc.)

City and county parks

Secretary of State's office

Como Zoo

Public libraries

Closed

MN Zoo

DVS driver's exams, car inspections, commercial vehicle registration

DNR licensing

State parks (park trails and grounds are available to people for day use only)

Highway rest areas

MN Historical Society museums, library and sites (including History Center and Split Rock Lighthouse)

Many state department websites

State capitol

FIRST trucks

Giants Ridge

MN Lottery

Canterbury Park

All state departments except for Dept. of Agriculture

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Tax deadlines don't change in state shutdown

Posted at 10:24 AM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (3 Comments)

Just because we're in a state government shutdown doesn't mean you get a break on filing taxes.

That's the word from the Minnesota Department of Revenue this morning.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue will continue to process tax payments during the state government shutdown. All tax laws and deadlines remain in effect, and taxpayers are reminded of their legal obligation to file returns and pay all taxes when they are due to avoid penalties and interest.

The department's electronic services will be maintained, so taxpayers may continue to pay their taxes and file returns during the shutdown. All payments and returns received by mail will be date-stamped to verify that they were received in a timely manner.

And while the deadlines are fast, don't count on getting any refunds in a timely manner:

In the absence of authorized funding, agency functions not deemed critical by the courts have been suspended. No refunds will be processed or issued at this time, and the department will have no one to assist taxpayers by phone or email until normal operations resume.

The tax department has more detail on its web site.

Oh yeah: "The Department of Revenue sincerely regrets the inconvenience for citizens, taxpayers and customers."

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Judge says state forest logging can continue

Posted at 11:08 AM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

We reported Friday that Minnesota loggers had gone to court to let them continue logging in state forests up north.

It appears they've received some relief. The Minnesota Timber Producers Association says a Koochiching County district court judge "issued a temporary restraining order early this morning against the state of Minnesota that allows logging to continue in state forests during the government shutdown."

Loggers sought the move after the DNR halted timber harvesting on state lands leading up to the shutdown. Loggers pay the state to take timber from state lands. Closing that off would have caused them "immediate irreparable harm" their lawyer said.

The judge said loggers "can continue current harvesting operations in state forests, but that no new harvesting operations can be started," the timber group said.

MPR News reporter Dan Gunderson interviewed Dale Erickson, one of the northern Minnesota loggers who asked for the restraining order. Erickson says it's a matter of the state honoring it's contracts.

"First and foremost we've done no wrong. and we have obligations. We have obligations to meet, contracts to fill," Erickson said. "It's important. If there was any assurance it was a two day thing you wouldn't go to this bother. But who knows?"

Erickson says the ruling affects more than 100 active contracts between loggers and the state.

Another hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 11th in International Falls.

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When will talks resume?

Posted at 11:14 AM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (3 Comments)

We're still waiting to hear about any possible times that negotiations might continue today. Nothing definitive so far. It certainly doesn't sound like anything is imminent.

Asked on MPR's Midday program if talks could resume today, Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said, "I certainly hope so. I'm waiting for a call from the governor."

No talks are scheduled yet.

DFL Rep. Paul Thissen, the House minority leader, was also asked on Midday if talks would happen today. He said, "I think we need to get the negotiations on track soon...it probably makes sense to give people a little bit of time..."

He added that a "permanent solution" needs to be found, one that doesn't involve borrowing money.

GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers was also on Midday and his comments suggest it may be tough for folks to sit down and restart talks.

Some DFLers this morning were arguing that one reason the deal died was that Republicans were pushing to have a conservative social agenda issues be part of a budget deal.

Asked if social issues insisted on by Republicans ended up being the deal-killer, Zellers called it a "baldfaced lie."

He also said Thissen and DFL Sen. Minority Leader Tom Bakk "wanted to shut down the government for the next election" and indicated he thought Dayton deferred to them.

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Read the Dayton, GOP budget offers

Posted at 11:27 AM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (12 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton's office this morning released a compilation of the back-and-forth offers and letters between him and Republican leaders in the couple days leading up to the shutdown.

Take a look through and post a comment or shoot me an email at ptosto@mpr.org if anything jumps out at you.

All Offers

If you're wary of the material coming from the governor's office, here are the documents published last night by Republicans.
063011 Offers

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Shutdown puts a crimp in childcare plans

Posted at 12:30 PM on July 1, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)

From MPR News reporter Brandt Williams:

The state government shutdown means thousands of Minnesota families will not receive child care assistance. The program helps families with children under 12 pay for child care while parents work, look for work or go to school.

Stephanie Burns of Backus said the program pays for most of the $225 per week it costs to send her two children to daycare while she goes to work.

"We'll probably have to start going to food shelves again and using the Angel Food Ministries and Ruby's Pantry is another one that we'll have to start using again because we won't be able to pay for food."

Burns said her family should be able to make it through the shutdown but she's mad that legislators and the governor couldn't reach a budget agreement.

_______

We hear this from our MPR colleague Jeff Jones:

"When we dropped our daughter off at the daycare center today, we got an unpleasant surprise. The staff told us the center would be closed for the duration of the government shutdown. Turns out most of their income comes in via child care subsidies that the state is not paying right now. Without the subsidized families able to pay, there isn't enough income to keep the lights on for the rest of us. The staff told us they were as surprised as we were when they learned about this at 10:00 last night."

Jones continues,

"I wonder how many other private child care centers will have to make the same decision and close their door to everyone. For my family, it means one of us will have to stay home from work until the shutdown is over to take care of our daughter. Certainly many people are much more affected than we, but I frankly didn't expect to be directly and financially touched by the shutdown so soon."


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Nuclear incident worries in shutdown? No problem

Posted at 12:31 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

One question that came up before the shutdown: What's the plan for a nuclear incident if most of state government is closed?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency wanted to know from state officials if a state government shutdown would affect Minnesota's ability to respond to an incident at one of the state's two nuclear power plants.

MPR's Elizabeth Dunbar writes this afternoon that "FEMA is satisfied with state's plan for a nuclear incident during shutdown."

FEMA had asked the state to explain how officials would respond to an incident during a shutdown.

State Homeland Security Director Kris Eide responded to FEMA Thursday, saying 16 key emergency management staffers would continue working during the shutdown. Eide noted additional staff could be recalled if needed.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Doug Neville told me that emergency management officials are confident they would be able to get any laid off workers to come back to work immediately in an emergency.

A FEMA spokeswoman says the agency "concurs with the state" that the plan "provides for continues reasonable assurance that they are adequately staffed and have the necessary resources to carry out the state's responsibilities in the event of a nuclear power plant incident."

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Shutdown triggers surge in claims for jobless aid

Posted at 12:40 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Hours after most Minnesota government operations shut down this morning, laid off state workers were causing a surge in applications for unemployment benefits, MPR News reporter Martin Moylan writes.

The week of July 10 would be the first week for which most state employees could collect unemployment. Payment for the week of July 10 could be requested during the week of July 17.

About 22,000 state workers have been laid off since the shutdown took hold at midnight.

Applications for unemployment benefits can be done over the phone or via the Internet. After a one-week waiting period, unemployed workers are eligible to collect 50 percent of their pay, up to a maximum of $578.

The soonest any laid off state employee would see jobless benefits show up in their bank account will be July 19th or 20th, Moylan reports.

MPR News reporter Catharine Richert recently answered some key Frequently Asked Questions on unemployment and the shutdown.

Q: Would laid-off state employees collect unemployment compensation? What about their health care?

A: Two of the state's largest employee unions came to agreement with the state on a plan that will keep state employee health care benefits intact, and Gearin's ruling allows for Minnesota Management and Budget employees to administer insurance.

However, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees will forgo vacation, compensatory and severance pay. That means the state will save some cash, employees will go back to work after a government shutdown with their benefits intact, and they will be able to file for unemployment benefits immediately after being laid off.

Q: Who can claim unemployment benefits, and how?

A: Unemployment insurance claims will be processed and payments will be made during a shutdown. Anyone - private sector employees who lose their jobs during a shutdown and government employees who've been laid off - can apply.

People can start applying today, but state employees who worked 32 hours or more this week (the week of June 27) will not be considered unemployed until the week of July 3, so the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has created a schedule to let people know when they should apply. Here's a link. You can apply for benefits online.

Once you've applied, you'll have to wait a week before benefits kick in. So, for instance, if you apply next week, your first "compensable" week will be July 10, and you can request payment for that week starting the week of July 17. That means your first benefits won't be doled out until July 19 or 20.

For people who are already getting unemployment benefits, DEED says you should request your deposit on Sunday; though the office isn't normally open that day, DEED has decided to continue operation in the anticipation of a busy week.

Weekly benefits equal about half of an individual's gross weekly income to a maximum of $578, according to DEED.
_____________________________

Tell us how the shutdown is affecting you or people you know. Help make our reporting smarter.

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Dayton: New budget talks unlikely until Tuesday

Posted at 3:20 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (20 Comments)

Don't expect the state budget impasse to end this weekend.

Gov. Mark Dayton says while he's willing to meet over the next few days with Republican legislative leaders, negotiators need a "breather." He expects to begin reaching out on Tuesday, after the July 4 holiday, to Republican and DFL lawmakers.

20110701_dayton16shutdown063011_33.jpg

His comments came during a taped interview this afternoon with Tom Crann, host of MPR's All Things Considered. Portions of the interview will be aired later today during the show.

Asked about when talks might happen next, Dayton said, "We're going to take a brief pause over the holiday weekend -- although there'll be some individual conversations going on -- and then begin Tuesday right away to reach out to Republican legislators, DFL legislators, anyone who has a suggestion for how we can get this resolved."

Budget talks between Dayton and Republican leaders broke down late Thursday night, leading to a shutdown of most state government operations that began today.

Asked why wait until Tuesday, Dayton said negotiators had met around the clock for eight days straight and, "Sometimes you just need a little bit of a breather... Things ended on harsh note last night and I think people are in more need of at least a good night's sleep than another round of haranguing."

The urgency of the situation "is very apparent to all of us," he added. "If there's anything that can be done this weekend that I'm aware of, believe me I will do it ... Otherwise, we'll get back at it and work as hard and as fast as possible to get this resolved."

Here's the interview.

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The state of the arts in a state shutdown

Posted at 3:50 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

stateofthearts.jpg

My MPR News colleague Marianne Combs pulled together a cool post on the effects of the state shutdown on the arts for her fine State of the Arts blog.

She writes:

The Minnesota Historical Society... the Perpich Center for Arts Education... the Minnesota State Arts Board... these are just a few of the cultural organizations that are closed today due to the state government shutdown.

Some venues are partially affected by the shutdown - for instance the Minnesota Zoo is closed, but its summer concert series continues.

Others narrowly missed being shut down, such as Interact, a center for visual and performing artists with disabilities. The government pays Interact to mentor and care for 125 adults with a variety of physical and mental challenges.

Read her entire post here.

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A timeline of last, best offers

Posted at 4:03 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

It''s been hard to keep up with the blizzard of offers and counter offers made in the days and hours leading up to a Minnesota government shutdown.

MPR News reporter Catharine Richert's been doing great work answering reader questions on the shutdown. Below, she lays out the back-and-forth plans of Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton.

June 29, 8 p.m: According to their offer letter, Republican legislators told Dayton they would support new revenue if he agreed to a special session on June 30 to pass a handful of outstanding budget bills and a measure that would continue current funding for the Department of Human Services until July 8.

In the same document, the GOP offered an array of policy changes, including a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions, a cloning ban, and a requirement that people show photo identification at the polls.

June 30, morning: In his response, Dayton offered a new revenue proposal, one that would raise income taxes on Minnesotans making more than $1 million annually to bring in $746 million over two years. Until then, Dayton had been pushing a plan to raise income taxes on people making more than $150,000 in after-tax income and joint filers making more than $250,000 after deductions.

Dayton also proposed scaling back a plan that would increase surcharges on hospitals and nursing homes to bring in $300 million in new revenue over the next two years.

Republicans rejected the proposal.

June 30, later in the day: At this point, Dayton took his income tax plan off the table. He also agreed to pass a "lights on" bill that would have extended funding for all operations of the state until midnight on July 11.

June 30, 3 p.m: The GOP responded to Dayton's offer, proposing $700 million in new revenue by delaying additional school payments and by selling tobacco bonds to cover the remaining deficit. Among other spending increases, the GOP also agreed to increase the per pupil school spending formula by $50 annually to make up for additional school shifts, according to the document.

June 30, 4 p.m: An hour later, Dayton wrote GOP leaders a letter, saying he was willing to adopt the GOP's school payment shifts, but would not accept selling tobacco bonds because it was not a permanent deficit solution. As an alternative, Dayton proposed either reinstating his income tax increase on those making more than $1 million annually or a smaller tax increase on those making more than $1 million in addition to $303 million in new corporate tax dollars, $13 million in non-resident estate taxes and $32 million in new sales taxes.

June 30, evening: In a letter, GOP leaders rejected Dayton's offer, writing that "substituting an income tax increase for the tobacco bond funding can only be seen as a step backwards in our negotiations." They offered their short-term "lights on" bill instead. The government shut down at midnight.

Here are the offer sheets from the governor's office showing proposals and counter proposals.

All Offers

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State workers confront jobless reality

Posted at 4:29 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

The state budget impasse put about 22,000 state employees out of work today. They began dealing with the reality of being unemployed and the uncertainty of not knowing when it will end.

MPR News reporter Martin Moylan spoke to several laid off state workers to find out how they're coping with unemployment. Here's his story.
_________________

Most state employees seem to have thought a shutdown was inevitable. But they differ widely in their assessments of how long it'll last and how'll they get by if the stalemate goes on for very long.

Debie Tsuchiya of Bloomington was laid off from her job as a health care fraud investigator at the Department of Human Services. She doesn't think the shutdown will last long.

"I'm quite hopeful this is going to resolve in a week. That's my bottom line. So, I'll never get any unemployment."

Despite the shutdown, the state is processing unemployment benefits, but officials say the soonest state employees would receive any payments is the week of July 17.

Still, Tsuchiya will apply for unemployment next week, following a directive to state employees to stagger their applications based on their social security numbers.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development reports a seven-fold increase in applications for jobless benefits compared with last Friday.

There were some complaints that the online application service crashed today. But the Department disputes that.

If the shutdown does drag on, Tsuchiya says she'll be OK.

"I'm close to retirement," she said. "I've got significant savings. I have no children at home. I have a husband who is gainfully employed. I could go a month without a paycheck and still eat and pay the bills."

Tsuchiya worries about younger people with kids. People like Jenny Foster of Hudson, Wisconsin. She was laid off from her job at the Department of Revenue.

For more than month, Foster, her husband and two teen-age two sons have been preparing for a shutdown. Foster's husband still has his job. But she says it'll be hard to get by without her regular paycheck.

"The loss of my wages when it's well over $600, $700 a month, that's a lot of money," she said. "You know, which bill are we going to able to pay or not pay or delay."

Foster says the shutdown will throttle back their plans for the fourth. There'll be no money for fireworks and other frills.

"With it being a holiday you know the kids want to go do stuff," she said. "Luckily my mother-in has a cabin we can go but we're not going to go spend money to do other fun things. We can't right now."

Laid-off employees are supposed to look for other work as a condition of receiving jobless benefits. And that's what Mark Fischer of White Bear Lake is doing. Fischer was laid off from his job job running the mail room at the DNR's main office in St. Paul.

He says things are going to be tight for him and his wife, Julie, if the shutdown goes on for very long. His wife won't return to her job as a school aide until the fall.

So, Fischer is trying get more money out of his moonlighting gig at the B-Dale Club in Roseville.

"I'm picking up some extra hours at the bar," he said. "And hoping they resolve this issue quickly. Get it done. Get us back to us back to work."

Fischer expected the shutdown would happen, given how the governor and Republican-controlled legislature had dug in their heels. But Fischer believes they'll soon be more open to compromise.

Today's seven-fold increase in applications for unemployment benefits came from people like Stacy Miller of St. Paul. She was laid of from her job at the Department of Commerce, where she works to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Miller got her unemployment application in at 7 this morning, without any of the trouble others complained of.

Applications for unemployment benefits can be completed over the phone or via the Internet. After a one-week waiting period, unemployed workers are eligible to collect 50 percent of their pay, up to a maximum of $578.

Miller is heading to Ohio to spend the fourth with her mother. She plans to write --and read up on industry news. She's looking forward to getting back to work but there's a lot of uncertainty about when that'll be. She says the guessing around her office runs from one to eight weeks --or more.

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What we know

Posted at 6:00 PM on July 1, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Here's a look at what we learned today about the state government shutdown.

Wait until next week. Anybody still hoping for a weekend deal that would open the state parks for camping by July 4? Not happening. Gov. Mark Dayton told MPR today he won't be reaching out to Republicans until next week and that negotiators need a "breather."

Judging from the heated rhetoric during the day among negotiators, he may have a point.

Jobless claims surge. Some 22,000 state workers are out of work, the largest single layoff in Minnesota history. So there was a lot of action filing unemployment claims today as workers confronted the new reality of being unemployed and the uncertainty of not knowing when it will end.

Loggers can keep logging. We didn't pay a ton of attention to this one, but northern Minnesota loggers won a court victory to keep logging on state land even though it was not counted as an essential service.

20110629_rest_stop_closed_33.jpg

Not sure what to make of it, exactly. But I wonder if it opens the door a little wider to challenges by groups who are losing income or sustaining damage because of the shutdown and because the part of state government they deal with isn't considered essential.

Pavement fails. OK, this isn't exactly about the budget impasse -- three pavement failures this afternoon on I-94 from Broadway to Dupont in Minneapolis -- but it kind of is.

Stay cool.

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