We have just one week before the vast majority of Minnesota’s state government shuts down, negatively impacting virtually every Minnesotan. The pain of the shutdown will be felt far and wide. While the courts will ultimately decide what is deemed critical and what is funded during any government shutdown, contingency plans have been developed, the court cases are ongoing and we’re getting a sense of just how painful a shutdown would be for the people of Minnesota.
Depending on court decisions it’s possible that teenagers wouldn’t be able to get driver’s licenses, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans may not get the health care they need, families could not be able to get the high-quality child care that they rely on, our K-12 schools might not receive any further aid after July 15, families wouldn’t be able to enjoy our state parks and trails, or get their fishing licenses, colleges and universities could be forced to tap into their reserves and borrow more money, and nearly 40,000 state workers will go without paychecks, dramatically hurting their families. Overall, 49 agencies could close and the rest would operate with minimal staff, keeping only operations running related to the health and public safety of Minnesotans.
The fiscal costs of a shutdown and planning for a shutdown are high as well. In 2001 when a shutdown was stopped at the last minute, the documented costs of this activity were $2.7 million. There is not a tally available for 2005, but since a shutdown actually occurred, the costs were probably higher. This does not include the uncounted costs of lessened productivity with state workers worrying about their jobs and lives, for more than a month.
Since 2007, I have put in bills to provide a continuing appropriation at the base fiscal level, assuming that new budget bills have not been passed. (Wisconsin, among other states, has a similar provision.)
This year, my bill is HF 568 and it has not received support from either caucus or the administration. The prevalent belief is that a deadline is needed for serious bargaining. I still support this approach to mitigate the waste cited above.
The pain that will result from a government shutdown is a reminder to keep our focus on preventing it from happening. Governor Dayton has modified his budget proposal twice, including a compromise offer of half cuts and half revenue through a tax increase on the wealthy 2 percent of Minnesotans. The Republican majority has been stuck in cement and stuck on the budget number they first introduced early in session. They have made no sincere attempt to compromise with the governor, but instead are willing to shutdown government to protect the wealthiest 2 percent.
We need to understand that this proposal is not a “soak the rich” approach, but only an attempt to make a complete taxation package — including property and sales taxes — that would be fairer across all income levels.
The Republican majority is operating on a “my way or the highway” philosophy and that’s no way to lead and no way to govern. Governing requires compromise and so far, Governor Dayton is the only one willing to compromise and do the right thing for the people of Minnesota. Minnesotans have said loud and clear that they want a balanced approach; they want a compromise, and they want us to get our work done.
Fundamentally, their budget is simply the wrong direction for Minnesota. The GOP budget would raise property taxes by $1.3 billion, throw 140,000 people off of health care, cut over 30,000 middle-class jobs — after campaigning on “jobs, jobs, jobs” — and make the greatest cut to higher education in the history of Minnesota, all while politically targeting some of their deepest cuts to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
The Republican budget would completely eliminate local government aid to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth by 2014 while also deeply cutting our schools through the elimination of integration aid. Their budget would also nearly cut the entire general fund appropriation to the Metropolitan Council, which oversees public transit. This would result in skyrocketing fares — potentially up to $7 fares — and diminished service — possibly eliminating weekend service.
These cuts are politically target, plain and simple. Republicans can look at a map and see that Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth are represented by DFLers, and therefore have no problem placing painful cuts on the core cities. It’s partisanship at its worst and it has no place in Minnesota.
Our state’s future and the stakes of a shutdown are too high for political games. It’s time for the Republican majority to compromise with Governor Dayton on a budget that protects all Minnesotans, not just the wealthy few and special interests. It’s time for the Republican majority to get their feet out of cement and stop sending Minnesota to a government shutdown just to protect the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans.
As always, please feel free to send me your comments, concerns and suggestions. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4257 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send mail to my office, room 353 in the State Office Building.