Minn. Shutdown Spreads Budget Pain Over State

Originally published on July 2, 2011 1:41 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Yesterday was the start of fiscal year 2012 in many states, and for a lot of them it's not exactly happy New Year. There's fretting everywhere over the impact of spending cuts in cash-strapped states. Minnesota starts its second day today without a functioning state government. A democratic governor and Republican lawmakers still cannot agree on how to fill a $5 billion budget hole. We've got two glimpses of state budgets now. We'll look at the effect of an unexpected dispute between state labor unions and the government of Connecticut in just a moment. First, Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio reports the shutdown there is causing headaches for many people this holiday weekend and real hardship for others.

MATT SEPIC: In northern Minnesota, 200 miles from the capitol, Eagle Scout candidate Dylan Burger was with his troop at Itasca State Park when they had to pull up their tent stakes and cut short a weekend camping trip.

DYLAN BURGER: It's along the colonies in here.

SEPIC: The 17-year-old says the political rancor in St. Paul that led to this shutdown is frustrating.

BURGER: I just think it's sad that they can't work it out. It's like two little children fighting over a goal. They just can't work together, and make a final outcome that will benefit the state.

SEPIC: While campers can just pack up and move on, that's not so easy for people with kids in state-funded child care. Brenda Grundeen is a single mom and says come Tuesday, she may have to quit her job to watch her three kids because their day care center is closed.

BRENDA GRUNDEEN: I'm trying to make ends meet. I mean, I've got to pay my mortgage. I'm really close to being in foreclosure. And I, if I miss a mortgage payment, it's really going to hurt.

SEPIC: With most government functions closed indefinitely, 22,000 state workers are not getting paychecks. One of those, Diana Rae Evensen, who works at the budget office, says if the shutdown lasts more than a week, her already precarious financial situation will become unmanageable.

DIANA RAE EVENSEN: My husband and I had to declare bankruptcy this spring. And my oldest son and his family had to move in with us because he was unemployed for about six months.

SEPIC: Evensen says political leaders don't seem to realize all the pain they're causing. And she says they need to forget about the state's polarized political climate, check their egos at the door and hammer out a budget compromise so everyday Minnesotans can resume normal life. For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in St. Paul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.