Minnesota lawmakers have just hours to avert a state government shutdown. And while talks continued on Thursday a deal did not yet appear close.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton again held meetings with Republican leaders Thursday, the Star Tribune reports. A couple of jibes against Democrats were launched via Twitter, but lawmakers have mostly maintained their “cone of silence” while negotiations are underway.If a deal isn’t agreed upon before midnight, the state’s parks would be closed right before the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Already, some state agencies are pulling the plug on their websites, the Star Tribune reports. A judge ruled on Wednesday that only “core” government functions will be funded in the now likely event of a state government shutdown.
The gridlock has come over how to close a projected $5 billion budget deficit. Dayton’s approach combines tax increases on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans and spending cuts while the GOP’s approach focuses on spending cuts.
A helpful video from Minnesota Public Radio explains the terms of the budget. In many areas, Dayton and the Republican controlled legislature are close to a deal. But the biggest gulf, according to MPR’s report, remains Health and Human Services.
“Dayton wants to spend about $1.3 billion more than Republicans in that area,” according to MPR. “These are programs that provide health care and other support to the poor, the elderly and the disabled. Health and Human Services represents about a third of the state budget, and its growing at a rapid rate. … That growth rate is a big reason Minnesota is facing a deficit to begin with.”
Thousands of state employees face potential layoff if the state government shuts down, which one political science professor in Minnesota told TPM is all but guaranteed.
Union members and activists rallied outside the Capitol Thursday, calling for increased revenue, the Star Tribune reports. But spirits remained high for some, who played catch and flew kites on the Capitol lawn.