Minn. Government Reopening After 20-Day Shutdown

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota’s government is reopening for business after a nearly three-week shutdown closed state parks, laid off some 22,000 public workers and demonstrated the wide reach of state agencies.

Most state employees were told to start reporting to work at 7 a.m. Thursday, a day after Gov. Mark Dayton signed a budget deal that ended the nation’s longest state government shutdown in a decade. It also cost Minnesota millions in lost revenue.

Not all services will resume quickly, and the work backload is expected to be large, but the recalled workers will restart a slew of services from the lottery to enabling licensing for drivers and anglers.

Even horseracing enthusiasts will have their fun back because the shutdown, in one of many examples of the government’s reach, forced Canterbury Park horse track to close after state gambling regulators were laid off. It cost horse owners and jockeys more than $1 million in purses and put about 1,000 people out of work.

“I can’t say I’m jumping for joy, because the whole thing has been such a painful and unnecessary situation,” Randy Sampson, the track’s president and chief executive said.

Jim Schowalter, the state’s budget commissioner, said it will take longer to restart some state agencies than others because some deemed essential continued partial operations with court permission. He also predicted it would take weeks for agencies to work through paperwork backlogs.

Dayton said the budget he signed Wednesday was the best deal he could get. It resolved the Democratic governor’s long impasse with Republican lawmakers by delaying aid to schools and borrowing against future payments from a legal settlement with tobacco companies — both one-time fixes — rather than raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans, as Dayton had wanted.

Republicans were equally unhappy because the deal spends more than they wanted while deleting their proposals for banning funding for stem cell research and curbing public employees’ bargaining rights.

The shutdown closed all state parks and two horse tracks, suspended driver’s license exams and some services to the vulnerable, and even prevented some bars from purchasing alcohol. The state lost millions of dollars, including lost revenue from lottery sales, tax audits and state fees and concessions.

The full cost won’t be known for some time, Schowalter said.

Some of Minnesota’s state parks — one of the most visible casualties — could reopen for day use Friday with overnight camping as early as Saturday. But Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris Niskanen said the pace of reopenings could vary widely.

The parks have to be cleaned and checked to make sure they’re safe, Niskanen said. Some parks were damaged by an early July windstorm and may not open for two to four weeks, while other parks were struck by vandals. Garbage left by day visitors during the shutdown needs to be cleaned up.

“We really want to manage people’s expectations here,” Niskanen said. “These are not latchkey operations.”

Another widely missed DNR service — the online system for issuing fishing licenses — was back up and running Wednesday, he said.

The 26 historic sites and museums operated by the Minnesota State Historical Society will reopen Saturday. Most driver and vehicle services were due to resume Thursday.

Several state employees said they were glad to be returning to work, but dreading the backlogs. Alice Smith, 52, of St. Paul, who processes GEDs and transcripts at the Department of Education, said this was the hardest layoff of the three she’s experienced and it’s going to be hard catching up — both financially and with her workload.

“We’re not going to get any back pay,” she said. “It’s all going to be a struggle for a full month until we get a full paycheck.”

She helps support an adult daughter with disabilities and other relatives. During the shutdown, Smith said she went to a food bank when she needed help with groceries, but the shelves were bare.

“I’m relieved that it’s over, but I don’t really see what it was all about,” said Susan Lommen, 60, of Deerwood, whose husband, Guy, was laid off from his state job as a state lottery sales representative. “It seems like we’re right back where we started from, because there’s no resolution.”

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

  • Rumplestilkson

    I hope they don’t pile on the overtime.

  • Redneck Purist

    Good news. Now the parasitic state government can go back to sucking the taxpayers dry like ticks on a pig’s arse.

  • DLQ

    Give it a rest, the workers are not the problem. Line staff hurt and bleed like everyone else. It is the upper management and politicians you should be gearing your anger towards.

  • Middle of the road

    actually it is the greedy unions. If I was offered a union job and the power of the FDL in this state, I would jump at it. The job protection, benefits, and political clout is incredible. The 30% less pay and forced contributions to politics is of course the negative.

    • Obvious to most

      Blame yourself. Thirty years ago, most workers had similar benefits, job security and pay. While the unions stood up for their workers, too many other workers bowed before the corporate greed, kissed the feet of companies who exploited and extorted them. Grow a pair and defend your worth to your employer. Don’t point fingers with jealousy and wish ill on others -it is a sign of personal weakness.

      Raise the bar,don’t lower it.

      • dan

        Please explain how non-union corporations exploited and extorted employees?

        • Citizen

          @dan. OMG I feel forced to reply to your ever ignorant posts. You must be paid to produce this fiction. Remember your history? Remember the turn of the century sweatshops staffed by women and children? Remember 80-hour work weeks everywhere? Remember no benefits at all: no sick leave, no vacation, no breaks to eat or hardly go to the bathroom, minimal pay, deathly working conditions, no workers compensation, no safety regs? Whoops, guess not, because you never read history, did you. If you have NONE OF THE ABOVE conditions, thank a union and thank FDR’s safety net of social policy. But, hey, if it is all so repugnant to you, you can certainly feel free to not file for your social security, Medicare, and if you have a devastating illness or injury–be sure to pay for it yourself!

          • dan

            Settledown Citizen,

            We are talking about 30 years ago in my response to Obvious to Most comment. That would be 1981. We certainly didnt have 80 hour work weeks without getting paid overtime, No sweat shops in the US in 1981, people had the choice of who to work for. What they used to compare companies was benefit packages, wages and perks. Unions have contributed nothing in the past 30 years.

            • Citizen

              @dan. Here are some benchmarks for OSHA. Before 1970 there were no safety standards. We all depended on companies to “do the right thing.” If that had been happening, I seriously doubt OSHA would have been needed. But, they weren’t so:

              December 29, 1970
              President Richard M. Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

              May 29, 1971
              First standards adopted to provide baseline for safety and health protection in American workplaces.

              January 17, 1972
              OSHA Training Institute established to instruct OSHA inspectors and the public.

              November-December, 1972
              First states approved (South Carolina, Montana, Oregon) to run their own OSHA programs.

              May 20, 1975
              Free consultation program created – more than 500,000 businesses participated in past 30 years.

              • Billy

                I didnt know OSHA was a Union program??

              • dan


                The the best answer you have for the benefit of a Union over the past 30 years is the Free consultation program? Wow
                Yes, I do want to go in and ask for a raise based on my performance and merits. I do not want to be judged by the workmanship of others. If I dont like the terms I am free to seek out another employer. I am not handcuffed into a job or Union.

          • R

            @Citizen Its true we needed Union back then but they have gained power and with power they became corrupt, enough is enough they are bleeding us dry!

            • Citizen

              So, R and dan, you are going to go in and advocate for yourself with your company instead of having a union of lots of workers behind you helping dvocatefor you and with you. Let me know how that works for you. Reminds me of the commercial on TV for some restaurant. We get to watch the employee ask his boss for a raise, more vacation, parking spot, blah, blah, blah while the boss just keeps saying “no”. Then we cut to a picture of the employee getting what he wants in a restaurant that says “yes.” Yep, you get a lot of clout with management as only one person–NOT! There is corruption everywhere in everything–adults realize that and move forward and deal with reality. Only children need fairy tales and a perfect world.

              • Bella

                Looks like you never had the courage to venture away from the Govt job or union in your working career. I dont think you would ever hear your words come out of any successful business person anywhere in the world. Not advocate for yourself but depend on lots of workers behind you…blah blah blah

        • Even more obvious

          Taiwan, China, Indonesia, Philippines – check out where your American goods are manufactured.

          Tax increment financing, enterprise zones, federal laws giving tax breaks for companies moving jobs oversees, companies playing cities off against one another for infrastructure freebies, companies moving jobs to the non-union Deep South, union busting by Reagan and Gov. Walker, etc.

          And people wonder why the gap between the CEO sand the regular Joe have gone from 27 timeto 236 times.

      • Mike

        Well said!

    • Mark

      You are obviously not a union member, or you would know that what you state is not true.
      It is true that unions do endorse candidates,and with endorsements some amount iof money is given to the candidate, but that money DOES NOT come from union dues in most cases. The endorsement money comes from voluntary additional contrbutions by members to the union political funds.

      Also, unions are truly what this country needs to get a strong vibrant middle class back into existance.

      I have yet to see one tax cut for the wealthy create ANY job. The only tax cuts that have created jobs, were those given to the less economicly strong groups. These people spend the money oin durable goods amd services which places demand on the system which creates the need for more workers. More workers create more wealth for all.

      We need to create jobs, and quit giving tax breaks and subsides to businesses. General Electric makes 87 billion in profits and pays zero tax. Exxon Mobil makes record profits, gets tax credits and government handouts. BP ruins the Gulf, and pays only a small percentage of the clean-up and gets Government handouts.

      Why do we continue to point the finger of blame at workers, who make a modest living and want a secure retirement with pensions and a gaurenteed wage and safe working conditions?

      • Citizen

        Excellent post, Mark. But the GOP has had an agenda of vilifying and marginalizing unions and their members for 30 years. Started with Reagan firing all the air traffic controllers. Since then unions have continued to lose members. Unions were the only check and balance workers have had to corporate or government abuse of workers.

        • Mike

          Mark and Citizen,

          When did the Unions remove their mob elements? They still seem very corrupt to me and are more about greed than anything. Don’t believe me? SEE CHICAGO POLITICS.

  • hardship smardship

    This was not a true lay off as they get their jobs back, unlike the private sector. This was more like a short furlough. Whiny people who believe they are entitled to my taxes because of guaranteed 8% return. Yes, when the pension investments fall short, we make up the difference. Barf.

  • Ted

    Public employee bashing is getting so old. Those who do this have no facts and are just inciting hate.

    • Mike

      Last year they bashed the nurses. Earlier this year it was teachers. Now its public sector employees. I wonder who will be next??

      • dan

        Let see what do all the above have in common??? Oh yeah they are Union

    • Citizen

      Yes, Ted, it is a race to the bottom. Let’s all bash each other until no worker has anything and is a serf to a large corporation. Oh, wait, that has already happened during the darkest centuries of the Middle Ages, relieved only by a 50% death rate because of the Black Plague which once again made the HUGE landowners dependent on the few workers left to work the farms. When there are 300 applicants for every job, workers have no value, and the corporations know this well as they have outsourced to third-world slaves-uh “workers”–everywhere.

  • Citizen

    The present debate that has turned the middle class against each other reminds me of the difference between hyenas and wolves. Hyenas are opportunists to scavenge off a kill made by the predators. The strongest Hyenas eat first, of course. I liken the GOP apologists (pick your poster here) who are not rich, to the hyenas who are scavenging off the kills of the stronger predators (wolves, for one). Wolves, on the other hand, do their own killing, feed fairly equally (the pups and alpha female first for the survival of the species), and kill only enough to feed themselves. The ultra-rich (Kochs of this world) and corporations will take and take and take until there are only compliant scavengers left. I guess we all have to decide which we will be. Rich peoples’ groupies (Hyenas), or self-sufficient wolves. Enjoy the analogy!

    • Ted


    • Concerned Citizen

      You make me sick with your union propaganda. Most, and I will restate, MOST public sector jobs shouldn’t be a ward of the state. They should be put up for bid to the most capable and cost effective private sector company to compete for. This would allow us to escape paying legacy retirement plans, absorb anent benefit packages, and pay that unions typically hold taxpayers hostage for.

      • Citizen

        It isnot union propaganda. Most people would agree that people are stronger as a GROUP than individually–especially when it comes to bargaining from a company. Just common sense that “no man is an island.” And for Ted, wolves hunt as a pack and are successful–the loners, not so much so. The hyenas just wait for a kill from someone….


    Citizen, and you are always right and everyone that doesn’t agree with you is wrong. I worked in a union shop for approx 35 years. The first years the union was great. I helped negotiate our first med coverage and our local ran itself will very little interference from the international. But you know they wanted to start taking all the decissions away form the locals . Which they did every year by changing the bylaws. Long story short we as a shop voted the union out by an overwelheming margin. I realized and inmediate 1400 dollar raise, sick days and personal time and never looked back. Say what you want unions SUCK.

    • The Architect

      You mean YOUR union sucked. Sounds like you’re right.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Weather App
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live