Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's happened: Minnesota Government Shuts Down

Minnesota encountered its second government shutdown in six years on Friday as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers failed to reach a compromise on closing the state's $5 billion budget gap.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Iowa averted a shutdown Thursday, and several other states waited for governors to finalize their budgets.

Without a two-year budget agreement in place, state parks and the Minnesota Zoo will be shut for the July 4 holiday weekend, nonemergency road construction will halt and thousands of state workers will be furloughed.

Government functions deemed critical by a county judge on Wednesday will keep operating, including the state patrol, prisons and the Medicaid health-insurance program for the poor. Courts will stay open, and welfare and food-stamp payments will continue.

Republican leaders met with Mr. Dayton several times Thursday, but both sides gave few details about the talks.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, a Republican, said late Thursday that the state's health and human-services budget was a sticking point in the negotiations.

Ms. Koch was interrupted several times by protestors in the Capitol chanting, "Tax the rich!"

Republican lawmakers had suggested approving a short-term budget to keep the government running, but Mr. Dayton had said he wasn't interested. (read more)