Prospects For Budget Deal Dim; Shutdown Near

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota marched toward its second government shutdown in six years on Thursday, with a partisan divide over taxes and spending to close a $5 billion deficit becoming only more bitter as a midnight deadline approached and negotiations foundered.

Any hope of a last-minute budget deal between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders evaporated around 10 p.m., when Dayton appeared to say he and Republicans were still fundamentally divided over how much the state should spend the next two years and that he saw no chance of avoiding a shutdown.

“It’s significant that this shutdown will begin on the Fourth of July weekend,” Dayton said. “On that date we celebrate our independence. It also reminds us there are causes and struggles worth fighting for.”

Republicans appeared again minutes later, and tried to hang blame for the shutdown around the governor’s neck. They said the two sides were closer than he admitted, and they criticized his refusal to call a special session so lawmakers could pass a “lights on” budget bill to keep government running. Dayton refused, saying he’s been clear for months that he would only agree to a total budget approach.

“I think the governor’s insistence that we pass a full budget is not going to be of much comfort to Minnesotans who are going to see delays on the highways because construction projects stop,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo. “It’s not going to comfort people who can’t use our state parks, or who can’t get a driver’s license.”

A shutdown would force thousands of layoffs, bring road projects to a standstill and close state parks just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. The effects were already being felt hours ahead of the deadline, as people rushed Thursday to get driver’s and fishing licenses, and park officials began warning campers to pack their gear and leave.

Though nearly all states are having severe budget problems this year, Minnesota stood alone on the brink of a shutdown, thanks to Dayton’s determination to raise taxes on high-earners to close a $5 billion deficit and the Republican Legislature’s insistance that the gap should be closed by cutting spending.

Negotiations between Dayton and legislative leaders were fitful Thursday, starting and stopping with no outward signs of progress. After talks broke down for the last time, Dayton and GOP leaders gave conflicting accounts of the last few rounds of offers.

Republican Sen. Michelle Benson said earlier in the day she wasn’t budging, a position that Republican leaders held to even after it became clear the shutdown was coming.

“If we don’t start taking a different approach to how we manage our government, we’re going to swing from one bad economic circumstance to another,” Benson said. “We can’t just keep throwing more money at government and hoping that makes things better.”

The showdown was something of a small-stage version of the drama taking shape in Washington between President Barack Obama and the Republicans over taxes and the nation’s debt ceiling.

Though many states are having budget difficulties this year, those where political power is concentrated in a single party easily passed budgets. Some of those with divided government had healthy reserves, including Alaska, Iowa and Montana; Minnesota’s rainy-day accounts are drained. Others such as Louisiana and Nevada used one-time money or federal dollars to patch things together. Nevada and Missouri renewed taxes.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie used the line-item veto Thursday to pare a budget from the Democratic-controlled Legislature before signing it into law, preventing a shutdown.

Only four other states — Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — have had shutdowns in the past decade, some lasting mere hours.

A stoppage in Minnesota would halt non-emergency road construction, shut the state zoo and Capitol, and stop child-care assistance for the poor. More than 40 state boards and agencies would go dark. Critical services, including the State Patrol, prisons, disaster response and federally funded health, welfare and food stamp programs, would not be affected.

State park officials told campers to strike their tents well before the deadline, even though there was still a chance of a deal. They said it would be too difficult to herd campers out in the middle of the night if talks failed.

In Afton State Park, near St. Paul, Rick Miller of Elko-New Market pushed up a camping trip with his 7-year-old son, Jack, to beat the shutdown. Miller originally hoped they could spend Thursday and Friday nights in the park on the picturesque St. Croix River, but he booked a campsite for Wednesday night.

“With the shutdown we decided we better come and get it in,” he said. “We don’t know how long it will be before we can get back into a state park.” He added: “It’s too bad they can’t just get the job done.”

A small group of protesters paraded before reporters clustered outside Dayton’s office on Thursday afternoon, chanting and waving signs to support the governor’s position. “You say cut back, we say fight back!” they yelled. One woman carried a handmade sign that read: “GOV DAYTON DON’T BACK DOWN!”

Dayton is Minnesota’s first Democratic governor in 20 years, and Republicans are running the entire Legislature for the first time in 38 years.

Dayton has proposed raising taxes on couples earning more than $300,000 and individuals making more than $180,000. Republicans have opposed any new taxes or new revenue sources, arguing instead that the state should rely on spending cuts, including deeper reductions in health and welfare spending than Dayton is willing to accept.

Some GOP moderates have talked of breaking the impasse with other means of raising revenue, such as eliminating tax breaks or authorizing a casino. Dayton has said he is open to such ideas.

Rank-and-file Republicans gathered at the Capitol on Thursday, more than a month after their regular session ended. Members of the large Republican freshman class, whose election victories in November helped the party take control of the Legislature for the first time in decades, held tight to their message that a total two-year state budget of $34 billion is big enough.

“I personally think the Republicans will probably be more damaged than the governor” by a shutdown, said freshman Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls, who toppled an incumbent Democrat in November. “The fact is that we’re all up for re-election again next year, and he’s not up for three years.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Dayton wants a shutdown

    Why can’t Dayton call a special session so the Legislature can push back the deadline? I know they can do it, but why won’t he make the call? Because he wants a shutdown.

    • Screaminsteve

      You got that right, unlike after 9/11 Dayton suddenly decided he needed to think he had to prove he had a spine… For all the wrong reasons.

    • Tim Balderramos

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but we wouldn’t be in this situation if we had voted for Tom Emmer….just sayin’

  • Sarah in Outstate MN

    They either come to a compromise now or they do in a few days when the pressure is really on. Grow up children and work together.

  • Lawmakers are stubborn (both sides)

    The posters on the other articles who want a shutdown (both sides) are radicals. Most people in this state don’t want a shutdown. Lawmakers will eventually come to an agreement, but the people of this state are going to suffer first because the lawmakers are stubborn.

    • citizen

      As I stated before, our elected representatives are a reflection of we the people who voted them in. This is evident by the comments we post on this and other sites. We have postings that show some people have more common sense solutions to mitigate a difference of opinion and quite a few who come out with both barrels blazing. How can our elected officials be any different even though we expect it of them. This same situation exists with the federal government and that will be played out soon as well. Hopefully realiistic minds will prevail and reach a settlement in both cases!

      • @ citizen

        In the future, I will be more responsible with my voting privelige. Right now, I will contribute to the Stephen Colbert Superpac. Ha! No, seriously, well said citizen.

  • Screaminsteve

    Is anyone else tired of this non-event already? We TAXPAYERS don’t need most of the so called services anyway. Wanna solve the problem quickly? TAX THE CASINOS plain and simple. Only lawyers and lobbyists will cry. Then again, who cares…

    • Chakka

      And the Souix tribal leaders

  • Randoc

    Both of the Reps and Dems are idiots!!! No wonder America is soooo bad compares to other countries.

    • Dayton oh no

      Dayton turned down a “lights on bill” which would keep MN open for business until the budget is balanced, Dayton turned it down!

      nice boss you have state employees

      • Moe dayton

        Kmsp 9 news reported it

  • Bill Clinton

    Medicated Mark may be doing the State a great favor. This gives us a chance to reboot the State government in Minnesota. A time to reflect on just how intrusive we want State governemtn to be. We can start to eliminate outdated, ineffective and non-performing commissions. Close down entire Departments. I hope the Legislature rethinks things from a clean sheet and not just a budget based on previous years budgets. A chance to really hack government down to size has presented itself.

    • Mark dayton

      Wow, that sounds nice, less government. why didn’t I think of that

  • Swedefarmer

    Dayton is right on! What a courageous leader. So much for the punks that accused him of cut and run.”. He’s got more guts than the whole GOP caucus.

    • Poor Mark

      Uh Sir, he ran out of the US Senate like a school girl, when everyone else kept working.

      Tissue Mark?

  • Done

    How ’bout a permanent “cone of silence” for everyone involved! No special session–just a special election.

  • Lights on

    Maybe we should be allowed to vote like they did out in Cali, no complete budget well those politicians just don’t get paid. Oh that’s right are Reps. don’t want us voters to vote on that. And a lights on bill I don’t think would do much except justify the lawmakers to draw a check, while other state workers are unemployed. It’s a great shame they can’t just compromise. One side is protecting the wealthy all the way, this has been seen across the country and well the Dems want more programs for illegal aliens.

  • were doomed

    you want a budget cut shave some of the fat off the red heads ass and the guy with the three stooges hair cut stop going to cost cutters

  • Outstate Wonder

    I am getting so frustrated at the fact that people are thinking this is GOP vs DFL in the legislature. It ISN”T! I know of at least 10 different bills/ideas that BOTH sides came together to do in the last week…when put in front of Dayton they were vetoed. It has become a big 2 year old fit that Dayton is throwing because he wants what he wants and how he wants it, or it isn’t going to happen. It is no wonder the legislature has given up on talks! Who wants to keep beating their head on a brick wall???

  • JSK

    to hell with the GOP. I’m sick and tired of their war on the middle class for the benefit of the rich.

    • Ferris Lind

      get a life

      • JSK

        Got one. I’m in the top 2% and probably pay less in income taxes on my salary than you do (as a percentage of income) .

        • DevilDog3249

          If you want to pay more taxes there is a spot on the tax form that accepts donations. quit demanding other people pay more. Also check the IRS. You are obviously not in the top two percent if u think you pay less then the lower 98%. If you are in the top two, which u arent, then you clearly dont do your own finances or know anything about accounting

  • Jo Poshek

    I can’t believe that WCCO did not cover Governor Mark Dayton’s news conference just now. I had to listen to it on radio..MPR. Terrible news coverage on the part of all local television stations here in the metro area. I know what to categorize tv news…fluff and dumbed down news. Terrible service to the public.

    • News Team

      Please, news stations have to keep the news within A PG rating

  • Shawn

    Do we get tax breaks this year for all the days our government is shut down? Last I checked I was paying taxes for a functional government, not these idiots to spend more time bashing each other than doing their jobs… Morons, time to abolish the political parties and let competent people run this state… Not some moron who hasn’t worked a real Job in his entire life

    • Chris H

      I couldn’t agree more Shawn! I was just thinking the same thing. They are still taking our tax dollars during this shut down.

      Dayton isn’t going to rest until he makes good on his promise to “tax the rich”. But by failing to pass the “Lights On” proposal to keep the state running, he is going to end up hurting those he is supposed to help and costing the state money.

      How we elected someone who received a “F” grade as a Senator to run our state is beyond me.

  • Frank

    Just to be clear . . . there is no deficit. The so called $5 billion “shortfall” is the difference between the current MN budget ($31 billion), the GOP increase on that budget (by $3 billion to $34 billion) and the $39 billion Dayton wants in the budget now (Dayton – GOP = $5 billion). Refusing a tax increase does not equal a tax cut. The GOP passed by law, a balanced budget AND also increased spending. I don’t understand why that isn’t good enough during a recession.

  • Sanger

    My state senator, Kurt Daudt, Republican and majority whip, when asked at a public meeting in March about raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans, replied with out hesitation, “No way. We’ll shut government down.” This proves that shutting down the government has been part of the GOP game plan from the start. No compromise, no negotiation, jjust shut ‘er down. When you elect such rigid idealogues who don’t trust government to office, don’t be surprised or angry when they follow through with their dictate to shut government down.

  • Chakka

    Chakka angry

    • Former Senator Weiner

      Chalks come here

      • Former Senator Weiner

        Anything I can do to help balance the budget?

  • Sara

    What if every family had to pay a dollar per child in school to the government for the budget, every year. That is affordable and a way to bring in money.

    • Chakka

      Chakka likes

  • hj

    This shutdown is good. We’ll find out who’s really essential and who’s really non-essential.

    • Citizen

      Well said

  • anneotremba


  • anneotremba


  • Cecilia Grizzle

    What I find hard to swallow and what hurts the most is not how this shutdown will affect me but my son. I have a special needs son who will now not be able to receive his services, nor will he have food and quite possibly a roof over his head if this drags on too long. With no cash assistance, food assistance or medical care for him it’s sad that our governor can’t come up with at least some type of agreement. As a very low income, single parent of a special needs son, why should I pay higher taxes while the very high income bracket sits back and pays only a pittance of what they could be paying. This includes our governor and the people that we as voters put into office.

  • David Loch

    Gov. shutdown why should it effect campers or fisherman as far as I’m concerned everything is free. No camping BS not my fault you have no one to collect my money fine. No fishing license ok not my fault I will fish anyway. Can’t fix the roads fine but I think with the Gov. shutdown no state taxes either until you figure it out. It’s easy to just shut things down until their are consequences. GOV. wants to shut down don’t expect the voters to shutdown because of your inability to compromise.

  • Fire Mark Dayton

    Let’s fire the governor, otherwise, it’s 3 more years of this. He could esily be recalled as governor!

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