Shutdown Roundup: Talks continue as Friday’s deadline nears

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State budget discussions aimed at avoiding a government shutdown stopped abruptly over the weekend, but restarted Monday afternoon according to the Star Tribune.

Gov. Mark Dayton, GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers met behind closed doors again Monday afternoon for 45 minutes.

“I’m not going to lay odds on it but there are two possibilities and we are committed to doing everything possible to (avoid) a shutdown,” Dayton said, according to the Star Tribune. “We had a very good conversation. They asked some very good questions and I had some answers.”

And as talks continue — in what Dayton has called the “cone of silence” — here’s what’s been going on in preparation for the shutdown:

  • The Minnesota Budget Project, an initiative of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, released a document comparing Dayton’s proposed budget with the one put forth by Republican legislators. An introduction to the report, which seems to favor Dayton’s proposal, says, “The Governor has proposed a balanced approach that combines spending reductions and revenue increases to address the needs of Minnesotans struggling in tough times.”
  • However, the site states the Republican-controlled legislature has “advanced a plan that relies heavily on spending cuts to services that are vital to a strong future economy. Their plan dramatically reduces the state’s investments in the higher education and training that creates a competitive workforce, transit that gets people to work, and health care and other services that create safe and vibrant communities.”

  • The shutdown would have a great impact on the YWCA of Minneapolis, the organization’s vice president of health and wellness said in a newsletter. A government shutdown would result in delayed or lost grant revenue and program services reimbursement to YWCA’s youth and early childhood education programs, the letter states. The delay could total $150,000 to $200,000 each month the government is shut down.

    Along those lines, Minnesota Public Radio reported roughly 26,000 Minnesota families received letters from the state earlier this month warning that their child care subsidies would be suspended in the event of a government shutdown.

    In an FAQ section on the Minnesota Department of Education’s website, officials say the lack of an education funding bill — which distributes federal grants and aids to school districts, charter schools and other agencies — would prevent them from processing payments for Early Childhood Special Education or Infants and Toddlers Early Intervention programs after Thursday.

  • An email Zellers and Koch sent Monday to state employees drew sharp criticism from at least one such employee, MinnPost reported.

    “We, like you, know what it is like to sit around the kitchen table, pay the bills and balance our household budget,” Zellers and Koch wrote, speaking about the legislature’s proposed budget. “We know that our balanced budget includes difficult decisions for state agencies. But you can be sure about one thing: Our budget keeps state agencies open on July 1 and state employees will continue getting paychecks beyond June 30.”

  • Hennepin County sent layoff notices to more than 1,300 employees in preparation for the shutdown, according to a Monday press release.

     

  • After receiving word last week that it could continue to operate during a government shutdown, officials with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system rescinded more than 6,000 layoff notices, the Associated Press reports.

     

  • The state House of Representatives last week authorized Zellers to hire Eric Magnuson, a former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice who represented Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer in a statewide recount last year, to represent the House in court proceedings regarding the shutdown, according to the AP. House Majority Leader Matt Dean said Magnuson will argue for keeping the House running in a shutdown so lawmakers can pass a budget.

    The Star Tribune reports that retired Judge Bruce Christopherson held a one-hour hearing Monday on a petition from state Attorney General Lori Swanson, the State Board of Public Defense and Gov. Mark Dayton to allow the courts to operate and to allow public defenders to represent indigent clients if the shutdown occurs.

  • Associations that oversee Minnesota’s doctors and teachers have recommended individuals in those professions renew their licenses before the shutdown.

     

  • Officials involved with Minnesota’s horse racing industry made their case to remain open during a shutdown last week. The Star Tribune reported that officials said closing the horse racing commission and halting races could have dire consequences and would “cause millions of dollars of damage” to the horse racing industry, leave 1,700 employees and 3,000 participating individuals out of work, and “destroy the 2011 season.”

     

  • Not everybody in the state will be impacted as negatively by a government shutdown, City Pages reported. School districts without enough reserve funds to pay employees might have to turn to lending institutions to stay open, which means Minnesota banks may benefit from a shutdown in the form of interest and fees.

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