Shutdown 2011: July 14, 2011 Archive

Shutdown stories from across Minnesota

Posted at 9:57 AM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

My colleagues at MPR's Minnesota Today page have been compiling stories of the state government shutdown from newspapers and other media across Minnesota.

Here's a quick look at some of the stories they've highlighted.

Shutdown: Lives put on hold: Brainerd Dispatch

Minnesota's government shutdown is leaving a countless number of citizens in limbo.Because state offices that issue licenses aren't operating, many people can't work or face serious business losses because they can't get the paperwork needed to do their jobs.

Duluth School Kitchens Wait Inspection: Duluth News-Tribune

The shutdown could affect the use of new school kitchens and elevators in Duluth, which must be inspected by state employees who are now laid off. Without kitchens inspected, the district would have to find another way to feed students. That could mean catering, but the district would have to weigh that cost against delaying the start of school.

At least 40 districts in the state are dealing with this issue.

Fairs don't get state food inspectors: Mankato Free Press

As the state government shutdown drags on, food concessions at smaller county fairs and festivals statewide are going uninspected by the state Department of Health due to a dearth of available staff.

With restrooms closed by shutdown, state park problems pile up: St. Paul Pioneer Press

Property damage, mounds of stinky garbage and, yep, poop - both pet and human - are piling up along some of Minnesota's most scenic spots, thanks to the enduring state government shutdown.

State Shutdown Leaves Some Veterans Unable to Pay for College: Northland News Center

As of July first, veterans who were expecting payments from the State Tuition Reimbursement Program will have to wait until the government is up and running.

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Dayton agrees to GOP offer w. conditions; GOP studying

Posted at 10:16 AM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (14 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton at a speech at the University of Minnesota says he'll agree to a GOP offer made June 30, the day before state government shut down.

There are a few conditions, including that Republicans drop social policy issue changes and pull back from the insistence that there be an across the board 15 percent state employees cut.

Dayton also wants Republicans to agree to a bonding bill of no less than $500 million.

dayton.humphrey.JPG

In the minutes since his announcement, some DFLers are attacking Dayton's compromise. Roseville DFL Rep. Mindy Greiling, a key DFL leader on education issues, tweeted, "No way can I support this awful "compromise" further tanking schools, deeper debt, kicking the whale down the road & a stadium?"

Spokesmen for the House and Senate Republican leaders were still studying Dayton's offer and were not ready to comment.

Four Republican freshmen lawmakers who were guests on MPR's Midday said they hoped the shutdown would soon end but added they need to see the details of Dayton's proposal.

"I think we're on the right path but I think we still have some things we're going to need to talk about," said Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud. "We're going to have to have conversations about [policy]. We really want to look at which ones we still want to fight for."

"I have to see the details," Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, added. I want this done. I want this shutdown done. But we really have to look at what we're voting on, especially if it puts us in a tough spot two years from now."

Click on the play button below to hear Dayton's remarks:

MPR News reporter Tom Scheck tweets: There will be no DFL votes for this. GOP has to bring 67 in House & 34 in Senate to pass. Remember some in GOP don't want more spending."

Here's Scheck's story:

Gov. Mark Dayton said he will agree to a Republican budget offer that will increase the school aid shift by $700 million and sell $700 million in tobacco bonds to close the $1.4 billion budget gap.

He's dropped his plan to raise taxes on Minnesotan's making more than $1 million annually - about 7,700 filers.

"I am willing to agree to something I do not agree with," said Dayton.

Dayton made the announcement Thursday to a group of public policy fellows at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Earlier in the day, he put the offer on paper in a letter to GOP leaders.

"Most importantly to me, this proposal bridges the remaining $1.4 billion gap between us without any more drastic cuts in essential services to the people of Minnesota," he wrote. "Unfortunately, your plan achieves this goal, not by permanent sources of funding, but rather by borrowing an additional $1.4 billion."

There are three conditions. He wants the GOP to drop policy changes included in earler proposals, such as a ban on taxpayer funded abortion and a ban on cloning. He also wants the GOP to drop their proposed 15 percent across the board cut in the public employee workforce and he wants a bonding bill.

The GOP suggested delaying additional school payments and selling tobacco bonds on June 30, hours before the government shutdown at midnight.

U of M professor Larry Jacobs, who moderated the event, asked Dayton if he was capitulating.

"I want to get this done. I'm willing to take the initiative and the leadership necessary to get the resolution that's not ideal from my standpoint," Dayton said. "This is the only viable option that's potentially available."

Dayton emphasized that Republicans need to act fast on his offer.

"Put up or miss the opportunity," he said.

Below is the letter Dayton sent today to Republican leaders:
GMD 7.14.11 Letter to Speaker and Majority Leader

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Mixed public, lawmaker reaction to shutdown-end offer

Posted at 12:03 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

After Gov. Mark Dayton this morning said he'd accept a prior GOP budget offer with conditions, it seemed like people would run to the deal to end the state government shutdown.

Yet public reaction online and from citizens in MPR's Public Insight Network has ranged from relief the shutdown might be over to bewilderment over the value of the two-week shutdown if a deal was doable two weeks ago, to skepticism that this is really the end of it.

Minutes after Dayton's announcement, Roseville DFL Rep. Mindy Greiling, a key DFL leader on education issues, tweeted, "No way can I support this awful "compromise" further tanking schools, deeper debt, kicking the whale down the road & a stadium?"

dayton.humphrey.JPG

Spokesmen for the House and Senate GOP leaders said they were still studying Dayton's offer and were not ready to comment.

Republicans are expected to meet with Dayton at 2 p.m. today to discuss the budget.

Four Republican freshmen lawmakers who were guests on MPR's Midday said they hoped the shutdown would soon end but added they need to see the details of Dayton's proposal.

"I think we're on the right path but I think we still have some things we're going to need to talk about," said Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud. "We're going to have to have conversations about [policy]. We really want to look at which ones we still want to fight for."

"I have to see the details," Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, added. I want this done. I want this shutdown done. But we really have to look at what we're voting on, especially if it puts us in a tough spot two years from now."

Republican Senator John Howe of Red Wing said lawmakers need to get the budget deal done, even if it uses smoke and mirrors. Howe said there is still a structural imbalance in the budget that must eventually be addressed.

Barbara Fritz, an instructor at Rochester Community and Technical College, was part of Dayton's Rochester meeting on Wednesday and strongly backs him.

But she thinks Dayton may have been swayed to accept a largely Republican offer after hearing stories in Rochester of how people were suffering during the shutdown.

"I am afraid that the governor may have based this decision on listening to citizens who were very upset and afraid due to real or possible loss of services and layoffs," Fritz said. "

Many of us feel very strongly that Gov. Dayton needs to find a way to put more tax burden on those with more. I know he is getting much resistance from the republicans and others, and regrettably, I don't think the citizenry of Minnesota who support Gov. Dayton let him really hear and feel that support."

UPDATE:
Tom Horner, who ran for governor last on the Independence Party ticket, attacked Dayton and Republicans on the prospective budget deal, writing, "Minnesotans are being offered a state of mediocrity... the deals being bandied about by Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders are sacrificing the state's long-term future for short-term solutions."

(MPR News reporters Tim Pugmire and Elizabeth Dunbar contributed)

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Live blogging shutdown coverage on the radio

Posted at 1:00 PM on July 14, 2011 by Jon Gordon (4 Comments)

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GOP leaders meeting with Dayton at 2 p.m.

Posted at 12:29 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

Republican leaders say they expect to meet at 2 p.m. today with Gov. Mark Dayton in his office to talk about the budget.

Dayton earlier today offered to accept the GOP budget offer from June 30 with a few conditions. Republicans haven't yet responded publicly to the offer.

Also, Minnesota Public Radio News will air a two-hour live call in show today from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with reaction to today's news from politicians, analysts and listeners.

Click here to listen.

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DEAL: GOP, Dayton agree to budget to end shutdown

Posted at 5:10 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (3 Comments)

Republican legislative leaders and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday have a budget agreement that will end the two-week state government shutdown, likely within the next few days.

"We have a framework agreement," said GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. "The next couple days will be very busy trying to expedite those details."

Earlier in the day, Dayton offered to accept a solution Republican legislative leaders suggested weeks earlier -- with several conditions.

After meeting with Dayton for more than two and a half hours this afternoon, Dayton and Republican leaders emerged to say the sides are in agreement on a package based on the GOP offer from two weeks ago and the conditions Dayton laid out today.

Leaders said there's no gambling revenue in the bill, so no racino.

Asked about the prospects for a Vikings stadium in an upcoming special session, Dayton and Republicans made it sound like it wouldn't happen.

"We haven't talked about a Vikings stadium in at least two months," Dayton said.

Added Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers: "We're focused solely on making sure these (budget) bills are processed."

Overall, Dayton called it the essence of compromise: "No one's going to be happy with this."

Dayton and GOP leaders have a deal from tommy scheck on Vimeo.

Dayton and GOP leaders take questions from tommy scheck on Vimeo.

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Distributor says MillerCoors brew still flowing

Posted at 2:55 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

It may end up being a moot point if DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers emerge from a meeting today with a budget deal.

But since the Great Minnesota potential beer crisis has captivated us the past few days, I wanted to point out a statement that came out this afternoon from Wirtz Beverage Minnesota, a major beer distributor in the region, about the ability to get MillerCoors beer brands.

Be advised we have not received any communication from the Alcohol Gaming Enforcement Division of Minnesota's Department of Public Safety.

We expect this matter will be resolved by the State of Minnesota without any disruption to our product availability. It is business as usual with our retail clients.

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Unlicensed anglers fish, hope deal is at hand

Posted at 3:14 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

From MPR News reporter Tom Robertson:

As news broke in St. Paul today around a potential end to the government shutdown stalemate, anglers enjoyed a day on Lake Bemidji, and some were fishing without a license.

The state Department of Natural Resources made clear Wednesday that its officers would not cutting anglers any slack for not having a valid fishing license, even though the shutdown made it impossible to buy one.

couplefishing-thumb-420x278.jpg

But out-of-state visitors I spoke with at a public boat landing on Lake Bemidji are determined to fish -- with our without a license.

"I'd hoped that the shutdown would have been over so I could have purchased my license online before I came here for vacation," said one man, from Madison, Wis.

The man didn't want to give his name because he knew he was breaking the law by fishing without a license.

"I guess I'll take my chances," he said. "I came 500 miles to get here, so I'll get the license as soon as they're able to sell me one. For now, I'll go ahead and fish."

I talked to other groups of anglers -- from Iowa and Indiana -- who said they had their licenses, but would have fished without one if they had to.

It's still unclear just how hard local DNR officers are working to check for valid fishing licenses. With the department's statewide staffing levels down to just over 200 because of the shutdown, the officers are likely stretched pretty thin.

None of the folks I talked with had run into DNR conservation officers on Lake Bemidji or any of the other lakes they'd visited this week.

On MPR's Morning Edition program this morning, one Ely-based outfitter told host Cathy Wurzer that he hadn't run across anyone who'd been tagged for fishing without a license. Earlier this week, the Crow Wing county attorney said his office had not seen any license violation citations referred by the conservation officers since the shutdown began July 1.

Perhaps the conservation officers have their hands full without worrying about whether a family from Iowa purchases a fishing license. They've been charged with keeping an eye on Minnesota's shuttered state parks and are doing their best to make sure boaters are checking their boats for invasive species.

One Bemidji area conservation officer told me he's been running ragged since the start of the shutdown. Like everyone else, he is anxious for leaders in St. Paul to solve the two-week old budget impasse.

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Shutdown keeps Mille Lacs walleye limits unchanged

Posted at 3:20 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Whether or not Republicans and Gov. Mark Dayton reach accord today on a budget, the two-week state government shutdown means that Mille Lacs walleye limits will stay unchanged.

Here's the DNR release:

The Department of Natural Resources will not change the Lake Mille Lacs walleye slot limit this summer.

The current rule, requiring anglers to immediately release walleye from 18 inches through 28 inches, remains in effect. The possession limit is four, with one walleye larger than 28 inches allowed.

DNR biologists typically review angler harvest using creel surveys in May and June to determine whether the walleye length limit can be liberalized in mid-July.

Due to the state government shutdown that began July 1, DNR staff were unable to analyze creel data and estimate total winter and open-water harvest through June 30, as required by rule for the regulation to change.

DNR officials said there is also no way to post regulation changes on the DNR's website five days prior to the change becoming effective, as the rule requires.

All other fishing regulations remain in effect for Lake Mille Lacs.


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Proposed budget deal: What do state employees say?

Posted at 4:10 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 Comments)

My colleague Molly Bloom has been asking state employees in MPR's Public Insight Network for their reaction to Gov. Dayton's latest offer to end the budget impasse and state shutdown.

Here is a sampling of what she's heard so far: Take a look and then add your voice.

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It doesn't do anything to fix the budget for the long-term. I wish they would cut income taxes and give Republicans a" win," then tax food and clothing by 2% to shift toward a consumption-based tax economy.

I would stay unemployed if they can reach a real solution long-term. But this agreement sounds lame to me.
-- Nate Dorr, Bemidji, Department of Employment and Economic Development

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What really needs to occur is a long, hard look at the many services we provide. Are we really getting the biggest bang for our money? Can we be more efficient? Is there a better way to do more with less?

But such a look at services would require serious work by our elected officials and, from my point of view, work they do not want to tackle. Too many special interest groups, too many pet projects.
-- Debie Tsuchiya, Bloomington, Department of Human Services

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I understand why the Governor has made the proposal he has to end the shutdown. The consequences of this shutdown reach far beyond the 22,000 state employees who are out of work. Daily more and more Minnesotan's are directly impacted by the shutdown.

But, I think giving-in to the intransigent Republican position is wrong; I think it reinforces fanatical behavior and reduces the likelihood conflicting legislative factions will be willing to negotiate in the future. Why should they? "Just say no until the other side says yes" will be viewed as a tactic that works. It will be very difficult to return to work with the same commitment to serving the people of this state.

My paycheck may still come from the State of Minnesota, but I don't really know who I'll be working for; it's certainly not the Minnesota I thought I knew.
-- Dan Fitzgerald, Minneapolis, Department of Health

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Governor Dayton was elected with a promise of generating more revenue through a more equitable income tax on wealthiest Minnesotans. Also, part of the GOP proposal is to delay state aid payments to school districts which is an accounting maneuver; it does not resolve the issue of the lack of funding for state government.

While this does put state employees back to work there is a part of me that feels let down. State employees who have been shut out of their jobs for two weeks now should feel as though they accomplished something longterm...I do not feel as though this does that.
-- Cindy Wagner, Mankato, Department of Transportation

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Understand the state budget mess in 3 minutes

Posted at 4:25 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (2 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 wait to see if Republican leaders and Gov'. Mark Dayton this afternoon reach accord on a budget agreement to end the shutdown, I wanted to make sure readers got another shot at the video.

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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Budget deal to end shutdown frustrates schools

Posted at 8:09 PM on July 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)
Filed under: K-12 education

The budget deal that will end the state shutdown will trigger big delays in payments to schools, forcing districts to borrow at a level not seen before in Minnesota.

MPR News reporter Tom Weber has the story.

Reaction to the budget deal has brought a range of response. However there is clear agreement from one group... disdain from education officials over the idea of delaying even more payments to public schools.

The deal means schools will only get about 60-percent of what's owed to them during this fiscal year... the other 40-percent will be paid next fiscal year.

In northern Minnesota, Roseau superintendent Larry Guggisberg says that means receiving 60-percent of his funding... but he still has to pay 100-percent of his bills.

Guggisberg says he's made cuts in each of his ten years at the helm in Roseau.

"We have picked away at it to make sure we stay in a solid financial position, but with this 60/40 I'm pretty confident we're going to have to do borrowing to a greater extent than we've ever had to do before."

Guggisberg is not alone. Schools had already been borrowing in record amounts because of last year's payment delay, which was 30 percent.

Now, at about 40-percent... at least $2 billion in state aid to schools will be delayed... which will account for nearly half of the state's entire $5 billion deficit.

Charles Kyte, who lobbies on behalf of school superintendents, says one glimmer of good news is that the deal reached yesterday also includes a little more funding on the state's per-pupil formula.

He says that should give schools enough extra money to cover the costs of borrowing and accessing other financing, but he says he can't help but wonder if this new record level of borrowing is insurmountable.

"Historically they never borrowed this much from us and they did always pay it back over time, if for no other reason so that they had the money back in our pockets so they could borrow it a second time," he said. "But we're getting to a point where the shifting is so deep, it's going to be very difficult to pay it back and it may simply be our new reality."

The deal for more delayed payments was also met with frustration from lawmakers who will soon vote on the plan.

Mindy Greiling of Roseville is the top-ranking Democrat on the House education finance committee. You could practially hear her screaming through the computer yesterday when she tweeted that she will not support the plan.

Not only does it create more debt, she says it also muddies up the public's understanding of how education finance works in Minnesota.

"A really bad part of borrowing from the schools is that when you pay it back, people seem to think schools got some money, and they didn't," she said. "They're just getting debt paid back, and then they don't get the money they need - so it's a compounding negative for schools."

On the Republican side... Gen Olson, who chairs the education committee in the Senate, says she would have preferred allowing slot machines at race tracks to raise funds to pay back schools... but gambling was not included in the deal announced yesterday.

She says school districts will face even tougher decisions.

"We've got mandates and mechanisms in place that make it very hard for them to control their spending, as well. And so, I'm reluctant to add any more burden to them at this point - especially at that level."

Olson says she hopes to somehow help charter schools deal with the shift... because those schools don't have access to the same low-interest loans that traditional districts do and usually incur higher interest rates with financing when they're forced to borrow.

That's just one of the scores of details that will now have to be worked out among lawmakers ahead of a final vote.

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