State Government Shutdown Looms In Minnesota

Originally published on July 19, 2011 5:10 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Matt Sepic, of Minnesota Public Radio, reports has more.

MATT SEPIC: Dayton, a wealthy department store heir, says the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans should pay higher income taxes. He was elected last November by a slim margin, while the GOP took control of the legislature for the first time in decades. By refusing to compromise, Dayton labels Republicans as irresponsible.

G: They were elected with their mandate. I was elected with mine. Now, they're both legitimate mandates, and I'm willing to honor theirs and its legitimacy, and they're unwilling to honor mine. Their position is our way or no way.

SEPIC: While Dayton says cuts are necessary, he says slashing Medicaid and social services by the amount Republicans propose goes too far. He also says cuts in aid to city governments will only lead to more property tax hikes. But with a shutdown just days away, Republicans say it's Dayton who's refusing to budge. The governor has offered to trim his tax hike on the rich. But Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said last week, Dayton has offered few details.

INSKEEP: The governor now needs to step up as the leader of this state, and come to the table with a substantive compromise offer. He needs to let the people of Minnesota know where he wants to spend money and if he has reductions, where he would reduce.

SEPIC: While the governor and Republicans have been trading barbs for months in St. Paul, the impasse is causing real worry across the state. Businesses near Minnesota's six-dozen state parks fear a drop in tourist traffic. Nonprofits that provide counseling and non-emergency medical services on the state's dime could go dark, too. So would many child day care centers. And 36,000 state workers would be laid off.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

SEPIC: State wildlife manager Nicholas Snavely, of St. Cloud, said he doesn't know what he'd do without a paycheck.

SEPIC: I got four kids at home and my wife, and they're dependent on my income. She also works part time to help out. We need those benefits. We need a full-time job, and we're scratching by. So please, compromise and get a government not to shut down come July 1st.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SEPIC: While the Republican lawmakers did hear from some supporters, most at the event blamed the GOP for the gridlock. But State Representative King Banaian was undeterred. He said voters elected Republican legislators to keep taxes and spending in check, and it's up to Governor Mark Dayton to make the next move.

INSKEEP: This situation simply sucks, and there's no other way to describe it. But I need help from the administration. I need help to know where the money's going to go. When we can have that information, we could get a heck of a lot further in this process.

SEPIC: For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in St. Paul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.