Shutdown 2011: July 11, 2011 Archive

What's the shutdown doing to your business?

Posted at 10:15 AM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)
Filed under: Business

We've been pretty focused on the shutdown's effects on state employees and state services. But as we enter business week two of the budget standoff, we want to take a deeper look at the practical effects the shutdown's having on private enterprise.

If you're a business owner, here's a chance to get your voice heard and help our reporting.

Tell us how your business is affected, if at all. What changes have you made to your business plans or operations? Any silver linings to all this? What questions do you want answered?

Post a comment below or use our handy MPR form.

We want to make sure we cover all the facets of this shutdown.

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(Any downtown rainbows visible in the shutdown gloom?)

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PolyMet shutdown hearing a test for business?

Posted at 10:30 AM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

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Well be talking increasingly about the shutdown's ripple effects on Minnesota businesses. One really interesting test of that comes this afternoon as PolyMet Mining makes its case that state officials working on an environmental review of its proposed copper-nickel mine should be allowed to go back to work.

The proposed PolyMet project is a huge deal for northeastern Minnesota.

MPR News reporter Stephanie Hemphill wrote recently that the mine is projected to provide nearly 400 jobs and the company says it's already spent $30 million on the environmental review.

Roughly 10 employees from various agencies are needed to keep the project on track, the company says.

The PolyMet case is one to watch. Many different kinds of businesses are already starting to suffer from the shutdown. Canterbury Park has had to stop it horse racing operations, temporarily laying off 1,000 workers because the Minnesota Racing Commission, which oversees Canterbury, is shuttered because of the budget impasse.

So how does a court decide which business-government connections must be sustained in state budget shutdown?
A few weeks the Duluth News Tribune reported PolyMet is running low on cash.

Should it be a jobs issue? Should it matter if the company and a jobs creating project for Minnesota are put in jeopardy because of the shutdown?

The hearing is set for 3:30 p.m. .

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Republican leader Koch: Only Dayton can end shutdown

Posted at 11:09 AM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (9 Comments)

Comments this morning from Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, suggest we won't be seeing a whole lot of movement soon in the battle between legislative Republicans and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton over a state budget.

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"Only Gov. Dayton can end this shutdown..." Koch wrote in a prepared statement.

Koch renews the GOP's call for Dayton to open a special session to pass spending bills the two sides agree on. Dayton has refused to call a special session until an overall spending deal is reached.

While there's only about a $1.4 billion gap between the Republican and DFL spending plans, Dayton wants to raise taxes on Minnesotans earning more than $1 million a year while Republicans say the budget must be balanced without raising taxes.

"The costs associated with this shut down are staggering," Koch writes. "Estimates of unemployment benefits, lost revenue to the state, uncollected audits, delays in construction projects and the loss of private sector spending comes in at nearly $65 million per week.

Bottom line: The rhetoric is not easing off at this point.

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Judge says jobs program for disabled not essential

Posted at 12:24 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

A state program that helps severely disabled Minnesotans find work is admirable but can't be considered essential enough to order funding during the government shutdown, a Ramsey County judge says.

Judge Kathleen Gearin called it a tough decision, one that went against the recommendation of the "special master" appointed to referee ongoing shutdown questions.

"Not every admirable social program is so essential that it reaches the level required to overcome the requirements of the Minnesota Constitution," Gearin wrote in a ruling posted today.

The Associated Press reports:

Gearin also denied requests to allow new nursing licenses, give car dealers access to an electronic vehicle registration system or let a suburban city get a water main construction permit. But she allowed funding for a Twin Cities food delivery service for homebound elderly people to go ahead.

Click here to read the complete rulings posted this morning.

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Understand the state budget mess in 3 minutes

Posted at 12:57 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

In the week before the shutdown, my MPR colleagues Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom produced a great, short video on the origins of the state budget mess. I can't say enough good things about it.

As we enter week two of the budget impasse, it's worth a second look.

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind of shutdown news that we (OK, me) forget the basic numbers of how we got here. Republicans and Gov. Mark Dayton were about $1.8 billion apart when Molly and Gilbert made the video. Now, they're about $1.4 billion apart but the basic issues remain the same.

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

Mouse over the box below, click the play button and check it out.


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MN Supreme Court to hear shutdown spending challenge

Posted at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Days before Minnesota state government shut down, Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin ordered Minnesota officials to keep paying for "critical core functions" until a final budget was approved.

Some, though, questioned whether the court had that power.

That question's now headed for the Minnesota Supreme Court. Justices have set a July 27 hearing in a case brought by Republican lawmakers who are challenging Gearin's authority on the matter and the constitutionality of any government spending in the shutdown.

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Dayton talking budget at 2:30 p.m.

Posted at 1:37 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to talk to reporters at 2:30 p.m. today about the status of the budget.

He'll "outline his continued efforts to compromise in state budget negotiations, and his efforts to engage Minnesotans directly on what is at stake in the budget," according to his office.

It's expected to take place on the steps in front of the Capitol.

It doesn't sound like we'll hear any new proposals or ideas or that we'll get some indication of any new talks between Dayton and Republican lawmakers.

We'll see what the rhetoric is like. The week, though, has not started on a conciliatory note.

Earlier today, Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch ripped Dayton for intransigence and argued, "only Gov. Dayton can end this shutdown..."

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Shutdown nixes prison religious services

Posted at 2:10 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

We continue to be surprised by the reach and ripple of the state government shutdown. MPR News reporter Sasha Aslanian fills fills us in on how the budget impasse has forced prison officials to stop prison religious services until a funding deal is reached.

Here's her story:

The state government shutdown has prompted the corrections department to temporarily suspend religious services at state prisons led by inmates or volunteers. The department has laid off 600 employees, and says it does not have the staff to process visitors or ensure safety at group meetings.

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Deputy corrections commissioner David Crist says the department favors restoring religious activities as soon as possible:

"Inmates do have the constitutional right to religious expression so we always knew this would be a temporary suspension of those activities and eventually, we want to bring them back."

Crist says the law does not specify a time frame for how long a temporary suspension of religious activities can last, but considers the circumstances in each case. Inmates are still able to meditate, pray and consult religious books during the shutdown.

The Department of Corrections is operating with 600 fewer employees during the state government shutdown. The 15-percent staff reduction means inmates can't receive visitors or volunteers, including those who perform religious services, because there aren't staff available to process them.

The department says offenders have a constitutional right to religious expression, and can pray or meditate individually until services are restored.

BONUS: Check out the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act:, a 2000 law that prohibits state and local governments from "imposing a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person confined to an institution".

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Dayton: Sin taxes a budget option; road trip starts Tuesday

Posted at 2:40 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton is talking to reporters. My colleague Tom Scheck is tweeting the key information.

Dayton raises the issue of so-called "sin taxes" on alcohol and cigarettes as an option. He says he's also willing to discuss a sales tax expansion under certain conditions. It's not clear, though, if Republican lawmakers would support any additional taxes.

Dayton also says he plans to barnstorm the state to deliver his budget message to Minnesotans. "I'm driving" is his response when asked who's paying for travel. He's headed for St. Cloud Tuesday and then southern Minnesota cities on Wednesday.

He says he'll remain available for negotiations. But there's nothing from him so far to suggest new discussions are imminent with GOP Legislative leaders, who did not appear in a conciliatory mood this morning.

Dayton says Thursday was the last time he spoke to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo or House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove.

Republicans are expected to respond shortly to Dayton's comments.

UPDATE: Here's video from Dayton's press conference...

Dayton pushes for compromise from tommy scheck on Vimeo.

...and the letter he sent to the GOP

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Dayton to GOP: Let's talk

Posted at 2:38 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

From MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire:

Gov. Mark Dayton is asking Republican legislative leaders to come back to the bargaining table today with the hopes of ending the state government shutdown. It's the eleventh day of the shutdown and the two sides still appear to be far apart on a budget deal.

Dayton sent a letter to GOP leaders telling them that he was open to discussing several revenue options including an income tax on top earners, tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol, eliminating sales tax breaks and an expanded sales tax with a lower rate. Dayton says his income tax proposal, like President Obama's, is a very selective tax increase.

"It's only on the very wealthiest individuals. It's only on corporations that aren't paying their fair share. It's not on all small businesses. It's not on all taxpayers. But they hide behind the same fiction that it's an overall tax increase, and they're intransigent about moving beyond it."

Republicans oppose raising any taxes to erase the state's $5 billion projected budget deficit. They have been urging the governor to allow them to pass a stopgap spending bill that would allow state government to reopen.

Here's a video of Dayton appealing directly to Minnesotans:


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GOP leader says budget counter offer 'in the works'

Posted at 3:40 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (7 Comments)

Responding to Gov. Mark Dayton's press conference this afternoon, GOP Legislative leaders say the governor needs to focus on how the state's spending its money and how to spend less.

MPR News reporter Tom Scheck is tweeting information now from a press conference with Republicans. He writes:

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch says a "counter offer" to Dayton is in the works but didn't say when it would be offered. Scheck points out Republicans haven't offered another proposal since the state government shutdown began -- that prior offers are still valid but that Gov. Dayton rejected them.

UPDATE: Here's the video from today's GOP press conference:

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Minnesota's budget jackpot?

Posted at 4:10 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

As Republicans legislative leaders and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton go at it over budget proposals to end the state shutdown, Running Aces Harness Park is launching a new radio ad campaign touting slot machines at Running Aces and Canterbury Park as the solution.

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Most people refer to this option as "racino." But the Running Aces folks are also calling it Minnesota's Budget Jackpot.

The group says slots would generate "more than $400 million annually in economic activity in the state and create thousands of new jobs."

However, that alone would not solve the current $1.4 billion gap between Republicans and Gov. Dayton.

The "budget jackpot" ads start Tuesday in greater Minnesota.

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Mosquito cops called back to work

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

With the shutdown dragging on into week two and mosquito season in full swing, Minnesota's Health Department has called a small number of tick and mosquito researchers back to work.

MPR News reporter Lorna Benson writes:

The Minnesota Department of Health has called back to work a small number of employees in one of its disease units. The workers had been furloughed during the state government shutdown. They will now help process a backlog of more than 500 reports of so-called vector-borne diseases that have come in since the shutdown began. Mosquitoes and ticks account for most of the vector-borne diseases in Minnesota.

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Health Department spokesman John Stieger says agency managers thought they could do without the employees if the shutdown had ended quickly.

"Since now we're on to 11 days (since the shutdown) it was important we felt to bring staff back to follow-up with health care providers who are contacting us about suspected cases of vector-borne diseases."

This is the peak period for Lyme disease reports in Minnesota. And the state is just entering its peak season for West Nile virus.

The Health Department didn't need a special ruling to bring back the employees since the agency already had permission to retain workers who investigate disease outbreaks.

A small number of employees who work in the Health Department's vector-borne disease unit have returned to work. The unit investigates outbreaks associated mostly with ticks and mosquitoes.

The agency laid off the entire unit when the shutdown began. But now the Department needs help processing the more than 500 reports of vector-borne diseases that have come in since the shutdown began. This is the peak period for Lyme disease reports in Minnesota. And the state is just entering its peak season for West Nile virus.

Spokesman John Stieger says a special ruling wasn't needed to bring back the employees.

"We had already been approved by the Special Master to carry out infectious disease investigations. So this kind of falls into that category which was already approved as a critical service."

Stieger wouldn't say how many employees returned to work. When the vector-borne disease unit is fully staffed it has 4 epidemiologists and 5 student workers.

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Judge skeptical of PolyMet argument

Posted at 5:22 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)
Filed under: Business

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Earlier today, we suggested keeping an eye on the arguments made by PolyMet Mining that, despite the shutdown, state officials working on an environmental review of its proposed copper-nickel mine should be allowed to go back to work.

We wondered aloud: How does a court decide which business-government connections must be sustained in state budget shutdown?

Should it matter if the company and a jobs creating project for Minnesota are put in jeopardy because of the shutdown?

The answer this afternoon appears to be: No.

MPR News reporter Stephanie Hemphill covered the hearing this afternoon. She writes:

A judge hearing requests for exemptions from the state government shutdown appeared to take a hard line today.

Polymet Mining Company appeared before Judge Kathleen Gearin. The company asked that DNR employees working on an environmental study of its proposed copper-nickel mine be allowed to return. The company's attorney said the Polymet is paying for the work, so it should be allowed to continue.

Judge Gearin said she wasn't persuaded by that argument. She said a shutdown means a lot of people are suffering.

"If the other branches of government fail to come to some conclusion about the budget, and they have, business life, personal life, is just not going to be the same in this state for quite a while."

The DNR is not taking a position on the matter, but a spokeswoman told Judge Gearin that two other mining companies are also in the environmental review process.

Gearin predicted businesses won't want to deal with the state after the mess caused by the shutdown. She has not ruled on Polymet's request.

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Judge: Rest stops staying closed

Posted at 5:37 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (3 Comments)

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Driving home from Yellowstone National Park Saturday night into Sunday, that stretch of I-90 from the South Dakota border to Albert Lea and the subsequent run on I-35 to St. Paul took a lot longer than I expected.

All the closed signs on all those Minnesota highway rest stops made it feel a bit longer.

Don't expect the orange signs to go away any time soon.

Among the newest court decisions this afternoon, a judge turned aside the requests of truckers and reaffirmed that highway rest stops are not essential services in the shutdown.

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US Bank offers month reprieve for affected clients

Posted at 9:05 PM on July 11, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

From MPR News reporters Nancy Lebens and Tim Nelson

U.S. Bank says it will allow a month reprieve from most loan payments to customers affected by Minnesota's state government shutdown. The bank is offering the program to laid off state employees and others whose businesses are affected by the shutdown.

U.S. Bank spokesman Tom Joyce says customers can choose which monthly payment they'd like to skip, then notify the bank by calling an 800 number.

"A variety of loans are eligible as well as small business lines of credit, consumer lines of credit, etc. They should call the bank and just make sure they've picked the month, or picked the payment that they want to skip and get that verification from the bank before they were actually to skip a payment."

U.S. Bank says it already has a program on mortgage loan forgiveness. Eligible customers must have a U.S. Bank account in good standing by June 30 to qualify.

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