Business owners eager to see end of shutdownby Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Businesses owners affected by the state government shutdown are relieved that a budget deal could be within sight.
Thursday evening DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders from the Legislature both signed off an agreement aimed to draw the shutdown to a close soon.
That's encouraging news for folks in construction, horse racing, and hospitality, which have all been hit hard by the shutdown.
On weekends, when traffic at his store in Makinen, Minn. is typically busiest, Robert Curran figures he's been losing money because of the shutdown.
"Probably on the average of $500-$800 a day. We're just a little country store out in the middle of nowhere," he said.
Curran was one of about 300 business owners who didn't renew an important license called a "buyer's card" before the state shut down. As a result, he couldn't buy alcohol to replenish his inventories.
"It looks kind of crappy, like 'Are you going out of business?' And I'm like, 'No, no, it's not that.' You get tired of explaining the same old story over and over," he said.
Curran's worried he may have lost some customers permanently because he didn't have their favorite beer in stock. But with reopening state government soon a possibility, Curran is feeling some relief.
"Good to see we can resume our business eventually," he said.
It's unclear when "eventually" will roll around. Dayton and Republican legislators still must hash out many details of their $35.4 billion budget. And the Legislature will have to vote on it.
Many businesses derailed by the shutdown are eager for that to happen. At some, there's probably even some genuine "chomping at the bit" going on.
"We only have 62 days of racing on our schedule right now and we lost nine of them already, 10 counting Friday," said Jeff Maday, spokesman for Canterbury Park.
At Canterbury Park, horse racing and card gambling have been idled since July 1. That prompted the park to lay off 1,000 workers.
But Maday said the park could spring back to life quickly.
"We could reopen as soon as we're given the go-ahead," he said. "As soon as the bills are passed and we're given the okay by the Minnesota Racing Commission."
The card casino could open within six hours of notification, and horse racing needs a day's lead time, Maday said.
Canterbury Park officials still hope that the final deal would raise revenues with a "racino" provision, which would allow slot machines at the state's two horse racing facilities. The governor's proposal to Republican legislators made no direct mention of such a provision.
For now, Maday is pleased that the park's prospects for reopening are brighter. None of the horses' owners or trainers appear to have given up on the park.
"We've seen trainers shuttle their horses to other tracks in the Midwest but not permanently leave, and I would be shocked if any of them left now with a deal in the making," Maday said.
The Associated General Contractors of Minnesota also welcomes the news of a budget compromise. Chief Executive Dave Semerad said contractors will file claims against the state to recoup the costs of mothballing their construction projects during the shutdown. But many projects could get going within a week of notification, Semerad said.
"It depends on what their equipment status is, if they've moved equipment far off-site, if they've started other projects," he said.
A few weeks ago, Semerad had estimated that about 4,000 construction workers would be sidelined by the shutdown. His estimate Wednesday was four-times that number, but impossible to verify, Semerad said.
Regardless of the number, Semerad questioned why any layoffs had to happen.
"It looks like we shut down government for not anything a lot different than what was on the table on June 30," he said.
- Morning Edition, 07/15/2011, 7:20 a.m.