Shutdown 2011: July 20, 2011 Archive

Special session ends; budget awaits Dayton's signature

Posted at 6:05 AM on July 20, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)

from MPR News reporter Tom Scheck:

The state budget and the end of the 20-day state government shutdown are now in Governor Dayton's hands. After working through the night and early into the morning, the Minnesota House and Senate passed twelve budget and spending bills. The marathon special session started at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

The Minnesota Legislature finally passed a budget that Governor Dayton could sign. It took six and a half months from the start of session, the longest government shutdown in the state's history and a budget deal that no one is embracing.

Read more.

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Health care providers assessing HHS budget bill

Posted at 6:43 AM on July 20, 2011 by Jon Gordon (1 Comments)

from MPR News reporter Lorna Benson:

Health care providers and others who depend on health and human services from Minnesota state government are still trying to figure out exactly what the budget bill contains.

The bill which was released around 9:30 last night and passed early this morning.

The new health and human services budget spends about a billion dollars more over the next two years than the current budget. Yet the spending agreement is still about a billion dollars short of the forecasted growth in health and human services programs.

To close that gap, lawmakers will cut most provider reimbursements anywhere from one to three percent. HMOs that manage the state's Medicaid program face an even steeper cut - around 13 percent.

Dave Renner, a lobbyist with the Minnesota Medical Association, said doctors are concerned that their financial hit will be magnified because health plans would likely pass their losses on to providers.

"The programs are under-funded and clinics and hospitals and others are getting paid less than their costs in some cases to serve these populations," Renner said. "So we are worried that this potentially will put some clinics in some difficult situations."

It's not all bad news though for health care providers. A long-standing tax that required them to pay 2 percent on all of their non-Medicaid proceeds will be phased out by 2019. In addition, there will likely be fewer uninsured patients in the years ahead as the state continues enrolling people in the expanded federal Medicaid program.

The picture is also mixed for nursing homes. Unlike most providers, they managed to avoid a rate cut. A small number of struggling rural nursing homes even got a slight increase in their reimbursements. But nursing homes were shocked to learn that lawmakers had undone their long-awaited rebasing plan.

The rebasing agreement was intended to help nursing home reimbursements catch up to the actual cost of care starting in 2013, said Gayle Kvenvold, president of Aging Services of Minnesota.

"If there's one thing that we have learned in the course of this shutdown is that nursing homes are operating, many of them, very close to the edge and this was a path to the future, a way of ensuring the long-term sustainability of those settings," he said.

Disabled advocates also feel they lost some important ground in the budget compromise.

"It's a troubling result to this difficult legislative session," said Steve Larson, public policy director for The Arc Minnesota.

Larson said the budget outlook for disabled people barely improved despite intense lobbying from his organization. He estimates there are at least $170 million dollars in cuts to waiver and home care programs that serve people with disabilities, including a pay cut that targets PCA services provided by non-legally responsible relatives.

"Some of our lowest paid health care workers that do a tremendous job are now going to have to take a 20 percent cut," Larson said.

Children's advocates are also disappointed by the health and human services budget.

Children's Defense Fund - Minnesota lobbyist Alexandra Fitzsimmons predicts some childcare providers will stop serving families with subsidies because they won't be able to absorb the 2.5 percent cut to their payments. She said a 17 percent cut in Children and Community Services Act grants will reduce opportunities to help abused and neglected children.

"We estimate that in a single year that 51,000 children will be impacted by that cut alone, so we have grave concerns with that cut," Fitzsimmons said.

Republicans worry that without significant reforms the costs of health and human service programs will keep rising beyond the state's ability to pay for them.

Representative Steve Gottwalt (R- St. Cloud) said his caucus pushed hard for new ways to rein in costs and succeeded by shaving more than 8 percent off the budget for this biennium. He said In the following biennium lawmakers reduced new spending growth to less than 5 percent.

"Many times we are accused of kicking the can down the road," Gottwalt said. "That is clearly what we are not doing in this budget solution. We are actually bending the curve."

Providers and advocates said they know cuts in the health and human services budget would have been much worse if the Governor and Republican leaders hadn't found a way to raise more revenue - though most acknowledge that they are not fans of the agreement to borrow against tobacco proceeds and school funding.

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Around MN: shutting down the shutdown

Posted at 7:59 AM on July 20, 2011 by Michael Olson (0 Comments)

The special session has adjourned. Here's how it is playing with news organizations around the state.

The Shutdown ends today; Legislature wraps up its work (MinnPost)
The Minnesota House and Senate "zipped through some final spending and bonding bills early this morning before calling it quits and heading home" (Pioneer Press).

During the 12-hour, 34-minute special session (as long as some House debates have gone on one budget bill), lawmakers often went at warp speed. The longest debate on a budget bill lasted slightly more than an hour, the shortest three minutes.

The spurts of speed were interrupted by long waits for bill writing to be finished.

Republicans said little about the bills, Democrats usually criticized them (Duluth News Tribune).

Partisan reaction from the Star Tribune

"We were dealt a situation," said House Speaker Kurt Zellers. "I think we dealt with it the best that we could."

Asked whether her members would run on or against this budget in the future, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said they would stand behind it.

"We're going run on this budget," Koch said. "We're going to talk about closing a $5 billion forecast deficit without raising taxes. That's a big thing. And we're going to talk about the major reforms in these bills."

Both leaders said they learned during negotiations that Gov. Dayton is open to reforms. "He is an agent for reform and change," Zellers said.

Democrats were less pleased with the results of the special session.

"More borrowing, more debt," said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis "This money is not going to the classroom. It's going to some bond house on Wall Street."

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said the shifting is "beneath us as a people."

Party label defined views more than geography. Here's how the compromise is playing with lawmakers in the southern part of the state.

"We need a plan to address these shifts [in education funding]," said Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing. "Nobody likes them. Everyone has a lot of pain with this deal, but we have to get the government involved in this issue."

Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said that while he doesn't agree everything contained in the proposal, he wants to get Minnesota running again.

"I do not like the entire deal, especially the school shifts, but this is the compromise agreed to by the governor and our legislative leaders," said Miller. "I plan to support it and end this shutdown."

Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, also opposes the education shifts. Pelowski expressed frustration with the overall budget process, and said he wished the government had consulted with the public when establishing a budget.

"This is the worst public process I've seen since I've been a legislator," said Pelowski. "Everything's been done behind closed and locked doors, without public input or public hearings" (Winona Daily News)

This is the kind of compromise that leaves the champagne tasting a flat, according to KSTP.

"This represents a compromise," said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, as she argued in favor of the tobacco borrowing. "I think there are 201 of us plus a governor who would say this isn't our best option on how to proceed, but it is the best option for bringing Minnesota government back to work."

Among the losers in the compromise: Stride academy. The charter school is like other across the state that will have to borrow money at a 7% interest rate. Public schools can get loans at 1%. The St. Cloud Times has more on frustrations at Stride.

Don't mess with the fish
Did the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources violate our constitutional right to fish when it stopped selling licenses during the two-week government shutdown? Maybe, several constitutional law experts say (Pioneer Press).

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GOP leaders on Midday

Posted at 11:05 AM on July 20, 2011 by Jon Gordon (3 Comments)

Members of the GOP leadership in the Minnesota House and Senate will take your questions about the government shutdown, the special session and the Minnesota budget deal on MPR's Midday.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean and Assistant Senate Majority Leader David Hann will join host Marianne Combs.

Listen in.

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MPR News to carry end of #mnshutdown live

Posted at 7:59 AM on July 20, 2011 by Jon Gordon (0 Comments)

It's almost over.

Governor Dayton will sign the budget and bonding bills at 9 am this morning. MPR News will carry the signing ceremony live.

It will take some time for the state government to get back into operation, reports Matt Sepic of MPR News.

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Live coverage: end of the shutdown

Posted at 8:45 AM on July 20, 2011 by Jon Gordon (3 Comments)

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State workers called back to work Thursday morning

Posted at 10:19 AM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (1 Comments)

After signing the budget bills to end the state shutdown this morning. Gov. Mark Dayton said he expected state employees to return tomorrow.

It's official now. The state's "Be Ready" site just posted:

State Government will recall employees beginning at 6 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, 2011. All state employees should report to work at their normally scheduled time.
Lawmakers finished voting on the bills just before 4 a.m. this morning. Dayton signed them later in the morning.

AFSCME Council 5, Minnesota's largest public employee union, says state employees will be called back to the same job they held before the shutdown. "Employees will receive a written, oral or electronic recall notice. Once they receive that notice, they must report back to work within three working days of the recall date."

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Dayton: I'll seriously consider Vikes stadium session

Posted at 10:32 AM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Gov. Mark Dayton this morning said he'll "seriously consider" calling a special session later this year to deal with a Vikings football stadium -- but only if the details are firmly in place.


While the Vikings had hoped for a public financing package in the budget special session, Dayton told reporters today at the budget bill signing that the Vikings deal wasn't ready to be brought forward and still contained "incomplete and unsatisfactory" information on financing.

"The notion that it was all ready to go and we held it up is not true." Dayton added. "It takes every partner to make this happen and that hasn't occurred yet."

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson has more on the issue.

Vikings officials have only said they are assessing their options at this point. Last week, though, Senate DFL Leader Tom Bakk offered an idea that could work as a compromise.

I"m going to suggest to the governor that he put together a task force to work on the stadium proposal and that some time next fall -- because the lease expires in December -- we see if we can find an agreement that we can find bipartisan support for and try to have a special session maybe sometime in the fall on that subject.

Click on the play button below to listen to Bakk's comments on the Vikings, starting at the 37:15 mark.

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GOP leader: K-12 budget shift won't harm schools

Posted at 12:29 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

Pushing back payments to schools to help close a budget gap was not ideal but is manageable for schools and will not harm classrooms, a key Senate Republican said Wednesday.

"There is nothing in this shift that cuts any (school) program, cuts any spending,"
GOP Assistant Majority Leader David Hann
said this morning on MPR's Midday program.

The budget deal delays about $700 million in payments for short-term budget savings. That's on top of $1.4 billion in payments to schools that were delayed to save money in the prior two-year budget. Collectively, Minnesota public schools are now owed $2.1 billion in delayed payments from the state.

"Superintendents will tell you that shifts are not unmanageable," Hann said this morning. "It does not take any money away from education....I have yet to meet a school superintendent who's told me the shift isn't workable...It does not do harm but it is not an ideal situation."

Superintendents and other education leaders last week expressed frustration and anger that the budget agreement would delay even more payments to schools and force districts to borrow in the short term to cover current needs. Some questioned whether the state could be trusted to ever deliver on its promise to send schools the delayed funds.

Asked about when the state will send the schools the money being withheld, Hann said no one can predict because it depends on how the economy responds. "It entirely depends on the recovery of the economy and the ability to produce revenues in excess of spending," Hann said.

Several callers challenged Hann on his belief that the shift will cause no harm to schools and said districts will have to borrow money in the short term to cover the cash withheld in the budget deal.

Hahn acknowledged some districts might need to do some short term borrowing but noted that the Legislature provided $50 per pupil to help cover borrowing costs and that districts have reserves they can tap.

Click on the play button below to listen to the broadcast

BONUS: MPR News reporter Tom Weber has a good explainer on the shift.

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That Giants Ridge golf date? It's on!

Posted at 1:12 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

On the cusp of the state government shutdown on June 30, we lamented the closing of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board operations including the Giants Ridge golf courses in Biwabik.

Yes, the renowned Legend and Quarry courses were shuttered.

But here's a little sunshine. The IRRRB today says that with the budget bills signed, the Legend and Quarry golf courses will be ready for play on Saturday.

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State tallying total costs of shutdown

Posted at 1:22 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

State officials are currently "assessing, calculating and compiling" how much the shutdown cost the state of Minnesota but it will take several weeks to take a final tally, state budget commissioner Jim Schowalter said this afternoon.

"State agencies have been running only critical services for the past 20 days and won't have all the information or analysis until activities resume," he said in a prepared statement.

"At this point, we'd expect to see additional costs due to factors including the execution of the shutdown, uncollected revenues, and lost productivity."

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Red River flood projects get boost in shutdown bond bill

Posted at 2:28 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

From MPR News reporter Dan Gunderson:

The bonding bill provides $50 million for flood mitigation projects, much of it targeted to projects in the Red River Valley.

Moorhead will receive $16.5 million. City Manager Michael Redlinger says the money will fund buyouts of about 40 homes. He says many people living along the Red River are ready to sell.

"In our case timing really is of the essence because we want to get out and do as much work as we can here late summer and into the fall and really get to demolition because if we can be demolishing properties and getting them out of the way that's less work that we're going to have to do next spring."

Other specific projects in the bonding bill include $3 million for Georgetown a small town just north of Moorhead, up to $6 million for Roseau, and $1 million for New Ulm.

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The shutdown blog is ... shut down!

Posted at 5:00 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (3 Comments)


The fishing licenses are selling. The ponies are ready to run. And the beer never stopped flowing.

Our work is done.

We launched the shutdown blog June 23 as way for you to keep up quickly on the state budget impasse. We took you to the moment of shutdown and then grinded it out through today, delivering as much information as we could.

With the shutdown officially ended, we're putting the blog to pasture and shaving off the official shutdown beard.

Please check out MPR's fine Capitol View blog for stories on the efforts to restart state government.

We posted a ton the past four weeks -- and got a ton of great responses and questions from readers and listeners. You made the coverage better. Thanks.

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Driver's licenses, tabs, other services to restart Thursday

Posted at 3:15 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says most motor vehicle services will start up again on Thursday.

The department said technicians spent today restoring computer systems idled during the shutdown. On Thursday, the division will be able to process driver's licenses and vehicle registrations. Online tab renewal and license plate services should also be available.

The department also says:

-- All people with a road test scheduled for July 21 and beyond will be able to take their test at the scheduled time.

-- Anyone who had a test scheduled during the state government interruption should call, beginning Thursday, to reschedule their test. People can call 651-284-1000. Knowledge tests (written tests) will be available beginning Thursday morning.

-- People who are eligible to have their driving privileges reinstated will be able to visit a driver's license center for reinstatement beginning Thursday afternoon.

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MN Historical Society reopening sites Saturday

Posted at 4:09 PM on July 20, 2011 by Paul Tosto (0 Comments)

The Minnesota Historical Society gets more than half its operating budget from the state. So when state government shut down, the group suspended operations at its museums, library and historic sites -- including Split Rock Lighthouse.

It was one of those relatively small consequences of the shutdown, but it was sad to think of those iconic sites -- especially Split Rock -- closed to Minnesotans in the summer months.

With a state budget in place, though, the historical society said it will reopen its sites starting Saturday.

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