Lights Out: Minnesota Government Shuts Down Without Budget Agreement

July 1, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Minnesota lawmakers just couldn’t get it done.

After many consecutive days of intense budget negotiations, the state’s government has begun shutting down ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. That means state parks and rest stops are closed — as well as other government services the court doesn’t deem “core” functions of government. More than 22,000 state employees will be forced out of work.After budget talks broke down, Republican lawmakers staged a symbolic “sit-in” in the legislature Thursday evening, the Star Tribune reported, calling on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to pass a continuing resolution to keep government funded temporarily. The Capitol closed its doors to the public earlier Thursday afternoon.

But Dayton wasn’t swayed. In a press conference late Thursday, he called the GOP’s request for a “lights on” bill a “publicity stunt.” Dayton’s message focused on unity, saying “We are one Minnesota.” He called out Republicans for refusing to accept increased taxes for the wealthy, saying “instead of taxing their friends, they would prefer very damaging cuts to health care, K-12 and higher education, state and local public safety, mass transit, and other essential services.”

“I believe in putting the people of Minnesota first,” Dayton said, looking exasperated at times. “I really believe I’ve done everything I possibly could.”

The gridlock has come over how to close a $5 billion projected deficit. Dayton’s plan for increased revenue has focused on a tax increase for the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans. On Thursday, the governor revised that plan to tax only Minnesotans making $1 million or more a year.

Republicans are accusing Dayton of playing politics with the shutdown. Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said “this is about shutting down the government for a political purpose.” Earlier Thursday, one GOP Rep. heckled Democrats, tweeting “You can’t spell FAILED with DFL!” — the state’s Democratic Farmer-Labor party.

But Dayton says he’s committed to keep working toward an agreement.

I will continue — tonight, tomorrow, and however long it takes — to find a fair and balance compromise,” Dayton said. “I welcome Republicans to join with me — my door is always open. I believe the people of Minnesota are with me. I ask them to join me in standing up for our state’s future.”

Political pressure on both parties is likely to mount over the holiday weekend if the shutdown continues, and someone will eventually have to blink.

Read more here.

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