Minnesota Talks on State Budget Impasse Break Without Result
Democratic Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s talks today with Republican legislative leaders on solving a government shutdown ended without a deal and will resume tomorrow.
Dayton met with Senator Amy Koch, the majority leader, and House of Representatives Speaker Kurt Zellers in his Capitol office and another meeting is scheduled tomorrow afternoon, Jodi Boyne, a spokeswoman for the House Republican Caucus, said in a telephone interview.
Dayton said the meeting today was “constructive” and that the two sides will continue talking tomorrow, spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said in an e-mail.
The state’s government shut down at 12:01 a.m. July 1 after Dayton, a first-term governor, and lawmakers failed to resolve a budget dispute in the Midwestern state of 5.3 million. The shutdown furloughed 23,000 state workers, closed parks and agencies, and halted construction projects.
Republicans continue to press Dayton to call a special legislative session to pass a bill that would resume government operations as a final agreement on outstanding budget bills is reached, Boyne said. Dayton has said he doesn’t want to do that without a “global agreement.”
“We would still like to see a ‘lights on’ bill passed,” Boyne said.
If a deal is not struck this week or early next, the shutdown could be lengthy, with both sides dug into their positions, said Lawrence Jacobs, a University of Minnesota professor who directs its Center for the Study of Politics and Governance in Minneapolis.
“I think it’ll either be resolved quickly, or it’s going to be kind of a more protracted sort of situation,” Jacobs said in a telephone interview.
Dayton has said he doesn’t want spending cuts alone to address a $5 billion deficit, and Republicans oppose his plan for an income-tax increase. The sides are about $1.4 billion apart on nine of the 10 budget bills that still must be completed, Dayton said last week.
“My ideal is anathema to them, and their ideal is anathema to me, so we’re going to have to find some other alternatives that may be less than desirable but are the only ones we can agree on,” Dayton said in an interview today with Minnesota Public Radio.
Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale and former Governor Arne Carlson announced the formation of a committee of government officials and business leaders to provide solutions to the governor and the Legislature by the end of the week.
Mondale is a Democrat and a former U.S. senator, while Carlson was the state’s Republican governor from 1991 to 1999. Although the two elder statesmen won’t be on the bipartisan committee, Carlson said at a news conference today that the group will provide a “third approach” to the budget battle.
Republicans offered a plan before the shutdown that included selling bonds backed by revenue from a 1998 health-care settlement with tobacco companies, Zellers, the House speaker, told reporters July 1. That would add debt, which is “ what got us into this budget mess in the first place,” Dayton said during a June 30 news conference at the state Capitol.
Feed the Beasts
The shutdown has left many residents guessing about what services are functioning and which have ceased.
The Minnesota Zoo reopened July 3 after Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin in St. Paul ruled that two accounts funded by parking, concessions and other nonstate revenue can be used. She previously ruled that the zoo didn’t provide essential functions.
The state’s horse tracks, Canterbury Park Racetrack in Shakopee, owned by Canterbury Park Holding Corp. (CPHC), and Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus, remain closed.
Officials decided during the weekend to resume delivery of U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities to food pantries for the poor, said Shaye Moris, executive director of the nonprofit Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank in Duluth. Their work was not deemed essential last week, so it appeared that thousands of pounds of food would sit in warehouses, Moris said.
“The need is really high right now, and I can’t imagine not being able to get this food out to those who need it,” Moris said in a telephone interview. Her organization distributes 64,000 pounds of commodities including ground beef, turkey, fruits and vegetables each month to 27 agencies throughout northeastern Minnesota, she said.
Dayton has identified additional functions he wants funded during the shutdown, including special-education aid, chemical dependency and mental-health care and services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes, according to a release from his office.
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