Marking July 4th during a government shutdownby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — John Rierderer didn't go anywhere Friday, the first day of a state government shutdown. And he's not making any special plans to celebrate July 4th.
"The conscious part of my mind knew that I'm not the only one in this position but it was a little hard to not take it personally," he said.
Rierderer has tried to keep busy with a list of things to do around his St Paul house from his wife. Friday also happened to be exactly three years since Rierderer fell off a ladder and ended up with major hospital bills.
"We were just starting to recover financially from having to dip into our savings to cover medical costs," Rierderer said. "So if this goes on for more than a week we're going to be pinching pennies a lot more than usual."
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.
Across Minnesota state employees said they felt attacked, abandoned and penalized.
Department of Transportation worker Rebecca Novak's anger is focused on the wealthy: Governor Mark Dayton wants to balance the budget by increasing taxes on Minnesota's top earners. GOP leaders instead want to make cuts elsewhere.
Novak, who lives in Mankato, says on this Independence Day holiday she's wondering if Minnesota is living up to the spirit of the country.
"We're letting the haves have everything and we're not really paying attention to who the small people are who can't make ends meet," said Novak. "My history lessons say life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness does not equate to the almighty dollar."
The first political radio ad about shutdown blame that started running this weekend seemed aimed at Minnesotans like Novak.
It was sponsored by Alliance for a Better Minnesota, an interest group that backed Gov. Mark Dayton's plan to close the budget gap through tax increases.
"This holiday 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."
The radio ad is playing at stations in Duluth, Brainerd and Bemidji, targeting people traveling up north for the weekend , according to Denise Cardinal, Executive Director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota.
"We know a lot of a people are listening to the radio when they're out fishing or sitting around with their family playing euchre," said Cardinal. "So we thought that that would be a good place for us to invest some money this weekend."
Cardinal said the group has also launched an online campaign through paid search engine ads and social media.
The a campaign has cost about $30 thousand to $50 thousand dollars so far, Cardinal said, paid for by money from local and national labor unions - and there isn't much left.
"We're getting word from a lot of our allies who are asking what it would cost to do different kinds of things in the coming weeks," said Cardinal."But we're really trying to wait and see how these discussions go before we make any sort of strategic decision."
Republican supporters will launch their own campaign this week.
Minnesota Majority executive director Dan McGrath said four billboards will go up starting Tuesday, along with radio and cable TV ads with the theme "Is governor Dayton a man of his word?"
"That uses an except from a debate during the 2010 gubenatorial election where governor Dayton said he would not shut down state government in order to get his way on a tax increase," said McGrath. "So we're just reminding people of that promise and our contention is that he broke it."
McGrath said his group is spending more than a $100 thousand on the campaign. He said he sympathizes with state employees, but it's unfair to place blame on wealthy Minnesotans.
McGrath said he contends Minnesotans of all income levels will pay more under the governor's tax plan and that the shutdown debate has been overly one-sided.
He said his group is trying to get the word out to the public that they should be blaming Dayton for the budget impasse.
Meanwhile, Minnesotans mark national Independence Day with most state government functions completely shut down.
- Morning Edition, 07/04/2011, 8:40 a.m.