Posted at 8:52 AM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
In case you missed it, Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin this weekend ruled that the Minnesota Zoo can remain open during the shutdown because it has its own revenue.
Canterbury Park wasn't so lucky.
Rupa Shenoy's got the story:
St. Paul, Minn. -- Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin Saturday ruled that the Minnesota Zoo can reopen during the state government shutdown.
The Minnesota Zoo say reopened today at 9 a.m.
"We're recalling the staff that were not deemed core essential staff for the baseline operations for the zoo," said Lee Ehmke, the Minnesota Zoo's director.
Gearin initially closed the zoo since she deemed it to not be an essential service that must continue during the shutdown.
At an appeals hearing Saturday, Gearin authorized the zoo to reopen, based on the fact that it operates on its own earned revenue. Zoo officials had argued closing the zoo could cause long-term financial harm.
On the same day, Gearin denied Canterbury Park's appeal to stay open during the shutdown.
The horse track's spokesman Jeff Maday said the track's leadership is meeting with lawyers to plan another appeal.
"Our next move would be to seek an expedited appeals process and try to get this turned around," Gerain said. "Obviously the thing that would solve everything would be if a state budget solution were to happen and the legislature and the governor could get together."
Maday said last year Canterbury Park's revenue over the July 4th weekend was $1.3 million, and the track stands to lose $1 million for every week the track is closed.
Posted at 9:01 AM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
MPR reporter Madeleine Baran's been doing a great job of sorting out which Department of Human Services programs will be funded during a shutdown, and which ones won't be.
Two days before the shutdown, a judge decided which state services would continue if DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers failed to reach a budget deal. The ruling by Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin said many health and human services programs will continue operating as usual.
Those programs include all services paid for by Medical Assistance - a long list that includes prescription drugs, doctor visits, hospitalizations, in-home care for people with disabilities, and a service that provides transportation to appointments.
Read the rest of Madeleine's story here.
Or, you can have a listen here:
Meanwhile, MPR's Julie Siple reports that food shelf deliveries will continue during a shutdown. Homelessness advocates were worried that deliveries would halt after the DHS employee who manages Minnesota's participation in a federal food shelf program was laid-off. He was called back to work, and the program will continue.
Read all of Julie's story here.
Posted at 9:45 AM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
MPR's Laura Yuen has this report about how the shutdown is affecting the state's correctional facilities:
A Ramsey County judge ruled last week that the incarceration of inmates is critical. But not all the services within the correctional facilities will continue.
Corrections officials say Judge Kathleen Gearin authorized the department to keep 85 percent of its workforce on the job during the shutdown. The department says the shutdown won't compromise public safety. Most of the workers who were let go provide support services for guards and other front-line staff.
Only correctional facilities in Togo and Red Wing will continue to allow visitors. Volunteer-run programs have also been halted. That includes religious services and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Officials say visits at the other facilities will resume once the government is up and running. Families and the public should visit the D-O-C's website for updates.
Posted at 11:00 AM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
I just read on the Minnesota Historical Society Twitter feed that Independence Day events at Fort Snelling, Kelley Farm and Historic Forestville have been canceled because of the government shutdown. Here's a list of all the state's historical sites that are closed right now.
Has the shutdown affected your holiday plans in unexpected ways? We want to hear about it. Share your thoughts here.
In the meantime, read Rupa Shenoy's story about how Minnesotans are marking July 4th during a shutdown.
This weekend the shutdown is hitting home for many Minnesotans who haven't paid attention to the impasse at the state Capitol until now. Families trying to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday at state parks are finding themselves shut out. Groups on road trips can't take a break at rest stops. Many anglers who didn't get their licenses in time can't fish.
But for those left unemployed by the shutdown the reality sunk in.
Posted at 11:46 AM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann says she supports the state's GOP legislators in their protest against Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal.
Here's what the State Column reported on July 2:
"I applaud Minnesota Republican legislators for standing up to reckless spending and higher taxes. At a time when families and businesses are stretched to the limit due to high federal taxes and a history of excessive executive waste, the last thing the people of Minnesota can afford is higher taxes," Ms. Bachmann told supporters Friday.
"Hopefully Governor Dayton will realize that fiscal restraint is what is necessary to strengthen the Minnesota economy and create jobs."
Politico has the story, too.
Posted at 12:31 PM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
MPR News reporter Tom Scheck sends this picture from his local SuperAmerica gas station.
The Minnesota State Lottery is closed during a shutdown, so that means no tickets will be sold. But if you happened to get your winning ticket before July 1, not to worry: you can still collect your cash so long as you sign it.
Also good advice: keep that ticket in a safe place.
Posted at 1:50 PM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
That was fast.
Just four days after lawmakers failed to reach a budget agreement, the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Minnesota is highlighting the government shutdown in a new ad campaign meant to build support for Gov. Mark Dayton's tax plan.
The radio ads, which are playing in Duluth, Brainerd and Bemidji, target holiday vacationers, ABM executive director Denise Cardinal told MPR's Rupa Shenoy over the weekend.
"The holiday weekend is here. And people are headed out to fish the lakes, go camping and enjoy our state parks. But this Fourth of July weekend won't be much fun for a lot of Minnesotans. You see, the Republicans in the Legislature refuse to compromise, and instead shut down the government. So state parks are shut down. There's no way to get a fishing license and all state campgrounds are closed for business. The Republican shutdown has cost thousands of jobs, and that's just the beginning. Why did the Republicans make such a drastic choice? To protect the richest Minnesotans from paying their fare share of taxes. There's a better choice: Governor Dayton's compromise budget protects the middle class and 98 percent of Minnesotans will have no tax increase. Call you legislators at 855-508-6421. Tell them it's time to compromise and support a budget that protects the middle class. Paid for by the Alliance for a Better Minnesota."
As an aside, you can see here what compromises both Dayton and GOP lawmakers were willing to offer during budget negotiations last week.
To understand why those negotiations fell apart, check out Tom Scheck's story here.
Posted at 3:00 PM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
The shutdown is four days old, and its effects are starting to settle in.
Here's a look at where things stand on day four, courtesy of MPR's Laura Yuen.
As a canoe outfitter serving paddlers setting out for the Boundary Waters, Steve Piragis is still keeping busy. While state campgrounds have closed because of the shutdown, the federal wilderness remains open for business.
But Piragis says he expects a lot of out-of-state visitors will be disappointed when they learn they can't buy a fishing license during the shutdown. A man from Ohio has already called Piragis' store in a panic, with his visions of catching his dinner at the campsite now thrown into doubt.
"The word is out around the country. It's been national news. He heard the news in Ohio, and decided to better call us to see if he's gonna be able to fish. We had to say, 'Not legally, not unless you have a fishing license already.'"
The man told Piragis that he may not make it to Ely at all if the government is still shut down by the end of the week.
"The was a little radical to me -- the Boundary Waters is a lot more than just fishing. But it's pretty important to a lot of people."
Across the state in southeastern Minnesota, a private campground took in seven groups of campers who were booted from the nearby Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. But Doris Palmer, who runs the family-owned Maple Springs grounds, says she's not celebrating the extra business.
"My thoughts are it's sad. It's very sad. And we would much rather it be open, and people going there."
Palmer also runs a small country store where campers at the state park stop to fill up on ice and groceries. She says business is down about 20 percent.
"But that's not our No. 1 concern. We need that state park to be open. It's just beautiful there."
Although the trails are open at Forestville State Park, all the facilities are locked up. The water is shut off, and there are no restrooms. The Department of Natural Resources says the public is still allowed to make day trips to state parks, but it's not recommended.
Other popular July 4th destinations, such as the Splitrock Light House on the North Shore, are closed. The Minnesota Historical Society emptied its museums and canceled Independence Day programs, ironically on a day when many Americans might be thinking about history.
Even state prisons had to take actions that were noticed by the public. The corrections system has suspended all visits to adult correctional facilities.
Department of Corrections spokesman John Schadl says the three-day weekend typically would have drawn a number of visits to the prisons.
"This is not a decision we took lightly. We were bound by what the court ruled, and the criteria they gave us. This is a real hardship for the offenders within our facilities, but most importantly, it's a hardship for their families."
Schadl says only critical services within the prison system are funded during the shutdown.
(That includes services that protect public safety and protect the state from significant financial harm. While corrections officers kept their jobs, the department had to let go about 15 percent of its work force, including many building maintenance workers.)
The department also had to halt all volunteer-run programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and religious services. But Schadl says in-house chemical-dependency treatment and other programs will continue.
"If you've got offenders who are not constructively occupied, it can breed conditions that are unsafe for our staff."
Schadl says if the shutdown persists, officials will re-evaluate the situation this week and make changes if needed.
One laid-off state employee who was called back to work this weekend was a state fire investigator. Department of Public Safety spokesman Doug Neville says the fire marshal's office was not deemed essential.
But after a fire broke out early Saturday at a New Ulm bed and breakfast, killing six people, Neville says the office sent one employee to help with the investigation. He says the emergency response was seamless.
"We have 24-7 contact information for these people, so if it becomes necessary to recall them to perform a critical function, we can do that. And it may not be for the duration for the shutdown that they come back, it's to come back to perform that critical function."
But most of the 22-thousand state employees who were laid off won't be so lucky to find work.
Posted at 5:30 PM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
Given how frantic last week was, things were relatively quiet on the Shutdown 2011 front today.
Still, every hour that goes by, we're getting a clearer picture of how the shutdown will play out: we know more about how it will affect our day-to-day lives; we have a better sense of how it will affect the state's politics; and we're getting a glimpse of how it could affect attitudes at the polls next November.
Here's what we reported today.
After being deemed "non-critical," the Minnesota Zoo has been given the green light to remain open during the shutdown. Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin made her ruling over the weekend.
We know that programs and benefits funded by Medicaid will continue and that food shelves will be stocked during a shutdown. But there's still some confusion over which other Human Services programs will get funding.
A fire inspector laid off as the result of a shutdown was brought back to work to help investigate a weekend fire in New Ulm that killed six people.
The shutdown is having a trickle-down effect. Prisons will continue to operate, but visitors won't be allowed except for at two state facilities. Meanwhile, the state's historical sites and state parks are closed, but businesses near federal lands, such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, are doing OK.
If a new ad campaign from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is any indication, the government shutdown is going to play an important role in the 2012 elections. The left-leaning group is featuring the shutdown in a new radio spot meant to build support for Gov. Mark Dayton's tax plan.
And MPR's Martin Moylan reports that voters have mixed feelings about who's to blame for the shutdown.
Posted at 4:42 PM on July 4, 2011
by Catharine Richert
We won't know how this whole budget mess will impact Minnesota's political landscape until the polls close on Nov. 2, 2012.
Still, MPR's Martin Moylan set out to get a first look at how the government shutdown is shaping voters' views of the state's lawmakers.
Here's what he found:
St. Paul, Minn. -- State government has been largely shut down for four days now. If the shutdown drags on, there may be severe consequences at the polls for some political leaders.
Outside a Dunn Brothers coffee shop in St. Paul, you can find a wide range of views about the political consequences of the shutdown which has put some 22,000 state employees out of work and halted a wide array of state-provided or funded services, affecting everything from fishing licenses and state parks to day care centers and highway rest stops.
Thomas Radke of Minneapolis believes DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, not the Republicans, will be punished for the shutdown. In fact, Radke expects Republicans could be rewarded for accepting a shutdown as the price to pay for holding the line on spending and taxes.
"Especially if they come out ahead on this particular impasse," he said. "It'll look more favorable on the right than the left."
Radke thinks Republicans will be seen as following the will of the majority of Minnesotans.
"They're simply tired of this tax-and-spending way that we've been dealing with our government," he said. "They elected these guys to make this change. Now, they're making this change and it's come to a loggerhead. And so they're going to have to ride it out and go tough against the governor."
Radke expects there'll be growing pressure on both sides to get a budget deal done, though. Though he describes himself as conservative who usually votes Republican, Radke says he's open to a tax increase on the wealthiest Minnesotans.
"After a couple, three, four weeks, people are really going to get fed up with not having their services that they're paying for," he said. "We paid for them. We want them. We just can't operate like this. We can't afford one-twelfth of the year down."
Even some folks who lean left think Republicans could get a boost from the shutdown, with it standing as evidence of their fiscal and political resolve.
Paul Ziezulewicz of St. Paul voted for Gov. Dayton and feels Dayton has been willing to compromise on the budget. But he says Republicans seem to be more attuned to the political sentiments of most Minnesotans today.
"They have been succeeding with new politicians, with new legislators over the past few terms," he said. "The new younger anti-establishment candidates that have been winning over the few terms have been predominantly Republican."
Some people who think we could do with a lot less government are actually glad about the state shutdown.
I'm glad, because it just shows the rest of the people that life is going to go on as normal," said Greg Wesson of St. Paul, who describes himself as "ethically" a libertarian. "The earth is not going to spin off its axis."
Wesson says he doesn't see the shutdown as a party issue, but as a reflection of the need for state government live with the means of the people.
There are also voters who just wish both sides would find a way to do what they were elected to do -- govern the state effectively.
"I think it's childish what they're doing," said Tom Ferrell of St. Paul. "I think they should just get this done."
But who's Ferrell going to punish at the polls? "Well, I'm undecided right now," he said.
He's not alone. Joe Miller of Minneapolis says he's certainly aware of the shutdown but it hasn't been a top-of-mind issue for him.
"I have the newspaper right there," he said. "But I just haven't really gotten around to reading too much lately, because I've had some other issues I've had to deal with."
Miller says it seems to him that most people are blaming Dayton. But he says he hasn't made up his mind.
If the shutdown goes on for long and inconveniences, irritates and maybe even harms more voters, they likely will be blaming someone. The question is whether the shutdown will be something they remember by the time the next election comes up.