Budget impasse shutters Minnesota state government
Minnesota’s state government shut down Friday after lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on how to close a $3.6 billion gap in the state’s budget. Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton wants a tax increase on wealthy Minnesotans, while his Republican opponents in the legislature want to balance the budget through cuts in government spending alone.
Dayton announced the shutdown Thursday evening. “I deeply regret that the last week of intense negotiations between the Republican legislative leaders and Sen. [Thomas] Bakk, Rep. [Paul] Thissen, and myself have failed to bridge the divide between us,” Dayton said in a statement. “Our major difference remains the same.”
The shutdown included closing state parks and visitors centers, ceasing work on road construction projects, and laying off up to 23,000 state workers. “It is significant that this shutdown will begin on the 4th of July weekend,” Dayton said. “On that date, we celebrate our independence. It also reminds us that there are causes and principles worth struggling for — worth even suffering temporary hardships to achieve.”
Dayton said he had proposed further cutting state spending by $1.6 billion for a total of $1.9 billion in cuts in his proposed $35.7 billion budget. Republicans had offered to forgo a $200 million tax cut, the governor said, but he did not think that was enough to resolve the state’s $5 billion deficit.
House and Senate Republicans told members of the media that Dayton was “throwing in the towel” with two hours to go before the state’s fiscal year ended at midnight Thursday. “A government shut down was not needed,” House Speaker Kurt Zellers said in a statement. Zellers said the state’s legislature had approved a $34 billion state budget in May that included a 6 percent increase in state spending to fund essential government services, but Dayton vetoed nearly all of that budget because it did not raise taxes. “We believe Minnesota’s economic recovery is hindered by runaway state spending and tax increases,” Zellers said. “Our budget put Minnesota on a stronger more stable fiscal path for today and our future.”
Read Dayton’s entire statement.