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Will Lawmakers Give Up Paychecks If MN Shuts Down?

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — It’s the question that is making Minnesota legislators squirm: Will they take a paycheck if state government shuts down on July 1?

If Republican legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton can’t reach an agreement on the budget by June 30, approximately 36,000 state workers would be laid off in a shutdown.

Dayton says he won’t take a paycheck in the event of a shutdown. However, some legislative leaders aren’t saying right now whether or not they will or will decline to cash their checks.

Across party lines, legislators are struggling with the paycheck issue. In a shutdown, Republican Senate Majority leader Amy Koch will say no to her paycheck.

“I have already announced that I won’t be, but that is my decision. I think you are going to see both Republicans and Democrats — some will, some won’t,” said Koch.

However, Koch’s position is in direct contrast to Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers.

According to Zellers, anyone who’s talking about not taking a salary before a shutdown even happens is calling it quits on negotiations.

“I just think it presupposes that there will be a shutdown. I think that is just giving up on negotiations. I am not willing to give up on negotiations. I think there is a lot that we can do,” Zellers said.

WCCO-TV caught up with the Republican leaders after an appearance on Minnesota Public Radio’s Midday show in which one caller, Kevin, blasted lawmakers who would still take their paychecks

“I think if you were really concerned about the budget and the people of Minnesota, you yourselves would take no pay until the budget is balanced,” Kevin said.

Legislators are paid $31,000 a year plus per diem during the legislative session.

“For some folks, perhaps it’s easier than others. There are some members who are not multi-millionaires,” said Koch.

Democrats are also feeling the pressure.

Majority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk is agreeing with Zellers, saying it’s premature to decide whether he will take a paycheck.

Minority Leader Paul Thissen sees it differently.

“We have decided to let each member decide how they are going to handle it on their own. I have personally decided not to take a salary during the shutdown,” said Thissen.

The leaders in both parties are leaving it up to individual members.

This is all public record. So, if there is a shutdown, anyone will be able to find out who did or did not get paid.

During a partial shutdown in 2005, it looks like legislators of both parties did get paid.

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