ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota’s 20-day shutdown last summer did not cause the financial crisis that some had predicted.
That’s accoding to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget.
Looking at it strictly on financial terms:
Minnesota essentially broke even on the 20-day shutdown, which closed state parks, stopped road construction projects and suspended many state services.
“Where there was harm, there was significant harm,” said James Showalter, commissioner of MMB.
State government essentially broke even, but Showalter said it put the state at significant risk.
“I think the Governor and legislators understood it was dangerous from the very beginning,” he said.
The final shutdown tally shows Minnesota lost $60 million from the shutdown, but that’s offset by $65 million saved from unpaid salaries of 19,000 laid off workers.
One of them, snowplow driver Michael Lindholt, is still upset about it.
“I’m pissed, I’m not gonna lie. I’m gonna say it blunt,” said Linholt, a MNDOT snowplow driver and maintenance man who says he still hasn’t recovered. “Because they didn’t want to tax the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans to save money. They’re going to lay 19,000 workers off. We’re the ones who got hurt. I’m one of the 19,000.”
The economic impact of a shutdown was blunted by a court order keeping much of it open.
But Republican leaders say Gov. Mark Dayton could have prevented it, but tried to pressure Republicans into a tax hike to balance the budget.
“This was done intentionally,” said GOP State Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, “and done in a way to try to create as much disruption as possible.”
Gov. Dayton, a Democrat, strongly disagreed.
In a written statement, Dayton said: “I am grateful that the Report concludes there was no net cost to Minnesota taxpayers. Unfortunately, it also shows that the worst financial hardship fell upon state employees, who were involuntarily laid off.
“Minnesotans know that it was the Republican legislators’ refusal to consider a reasonable and balanced solution, which caused the shutdown.”
The report did not measure the shutdown ripple effect on Minnesota’s economy, it’s credit and credibility. But it said there will be long-term consequences.
“We don’t have direct budget costs right now, but there are things that we are going to be dealing with for years to come,” said Showalter.