Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol today at 10 a.m. to protest the impending government shutdown while representatives of Governor Dayton and the Republican legislature negotiated inside.
The shutdown will officially begin tomorrow if the governor and legislature do not reach an agreement on the budget by midnight.
Protestors demanded a budget that would avoid a state government shutdown, raise revenues, and preserve services.
Among the protestors were state employees who face job loss during a shutdown, and many residents who stand to lose access to state services.
“I have a lot riding on this. My housing, my medical care,” said Cherise Payton, a resident of Duluth. “I have a lot to lose if they don’t pass a budget.”
Payton rode in from Duluth by bus to speak at the rally. She told the crowd she had been homeless due to health issues until she was able to receive state funded medical treatment, which gave her the stability to find work and afford housing.
If the government is shutdown or state health care services are cut, she said, she might lose what she had gained.
“No one should have to choose between medical care and housing,” she told the demonstrators.
Other protestors echoed her sentiments.
“A lot of programs that affect me are on the chopping block,” said David Johnson, a Minneapolis resident who said he is afraid he will have to put off treatment for his hearing loss. “It will be a hardship.”
Speakers and demonstrators also called for the new budget to include new revenue.
“A potential government shutdown is only a symptom of the problem,” said Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. In order to solve its budget problems, she said, the state needed new sources of income.
The budget fight between Dayton and the legislature centers on the question of how to make up the deficit the state faces as a result of increasing costs. While the Republicans have proposed a $34 billion budget that makes up the entire deficit through cuts, Dayton has put forward a $35.8 billion budget that includes a new tax on the highest income residents.
John Evans of Duluth said he came to the rally to support Dayton’s budget, including the tax increase.
“We should all be in the same boat, we should all be helping each other,” said John Evans. “I just think they should tax people fairly.”
Invest in Minnesota, a coalition of labor, non-profit, and faith-based organizations, organized the rally. Groups represented at the demonstration included the state AFL-CIO, non-profits Project for Pride in Living and Parents United, and the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition.
Other demonstrations against the shutdown took place throughout the day. Activist group US Uncut planned a demonstration in the afternoon, and state employee union AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, planned a vigil outside the capitol on Thursday evening.