Compromise ends Minnesota government shutdown
Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans in the state’s legislature have reached a compromise that is expected to end the shutdown of the state’s government that began July 1. Neither side was completely happy with the compromise but said it was in the best interest of the residents of the state.
Minnesota’s state government shut down at the beginning of the month after lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on how to close a $3.6 billion gap in the state’s budget. Dayton had pushed for a tax increase on wealthy Minnesotans, while his Republican opponents in the legislature wanted to balance the budget through cuts in government spending alone.
While the details of the compromise were still being worked out on Friday, it will essentially involve borrowing the $1.4 billion that remained in the budget gap over previously agreed upon cuts, according to a letter from Dayton to legislators. In return for Dayton’s concession on raising taxes, Dayton insisted that they drop their demand that the state eliminate 15 percent of its workforce, and to support a $500 million bonding bill for new construction projects. “The budget agreement in place does not raise taxes, makes targeted reductions in eight budget areas and slows the exponential growth of state spending,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said in a statement.
In his letter, Dayton said that, while he was agreeing to the compromise, he did not agree with it. “Despite my serious reservations about your plan, I have concluded that continuing the state government shutdown would be even more destructive for too many Minnesotans,” Dayton said in his letter. “Therefore, I am willing to agree to something I do not agree with — your proposal — in order to spare our citizens and our state from further damage.”
Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers reiterated his party’s position that a tax increase was not needed to balance the state’s budget. “The best thing we can do to improve Minnesota’s economy and create jobs is keep the tax burden down,” Zellers said in a statement. “We appreciate Gov. Dayton’s willingness to compromise in the best interests of the state of Minnesota. Our agreement today will result in a budget that is balanced without tax increases and a state that is back to work.”
The shutdown included closing state parks and visitors centers, ceasing work on road construction projects, and laying off up to 23,000 state workers. “This government shutdown had a rippling effect of individuals, families and businesses all over Minnesota,” Koch said in her statement. “Having an agreement in place is a certain sign of relief for those most adversely affected by the shutdown.” Koch and Zellers said they expect to finalize details of the agreement over the next few days and have bills ready for a special legislative session as early as next week.