The State of Minnesota has officially shut down.
After weeks of intense negotiations, capped by closed-door sessions through Thursday’s waning minutes, Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers failed to agree on an operating budget for the coming biennium.
“I deeply regret that after two days of intense negotiations we have failed to reach an agreement,” Dayton said during a 10:30 p.m. press conference in his office.
Dayton continued: “I offered a plan to raise the taxes of only those Minnesotans who make more than $1 million per year. That is less than 0.3% of the state population. Despite many hours of negotiations, the Republican caucus remains adamantly opposed to new taxes.”
Earlier in the week, Gov. Dayton said a deal would have to be done by Wednesday in order to draft and pass the necessary legislation. But Thursday, the governor continued meeting with GOP leaders on-and-off trying to put an agreement in place.
The day’s events smacked of the political posturing that has become characteristic of these budget negotiations.
There appeared a glimmer of hope early Thursday evening. But around 8:30 p.m., Rep. Tony Cornish (R-District 24B) reported to his seat in the Minnesota House saying he had received a message from the GOP leadership to do so.
“There is always time for a deal,” Cornish told reporters as he walked into the House.
The gesture was called “grandstanding,” “theatrics” and “mock legislature” by Democratic Minority Leaders Sen. Tom Bakk and Richfield's .
Bakk took the podium at 9 p.m. and pleaded with his GOP counterparts to return to the negotiating table instead of sitting in the legislature. “We are running out of time,” he said plainly.
Bakk’s statement proved prophetic. Fiscal year 2012-13 began at 12:01 a.m. today and, without a budget in place, the State of Minnesota was unable to fund its myriad services or pay salaries to its almost 33,000 state employees—22,000 of which left their offices today without a job to return to.
Owing to a June 29 ruling by Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin, state correctional facilities, nursing homes, public safety, and payment of medical services are all considered “core functions” of government and will continue operating. Everything else is no longer functional until a budget deal is reached.
The heart of the impasse has always been the $1.8 billion difference between Gov. Dayton’s operating budget and the budget proposed by the GOP. Central to the issue is the method for closing Minnesota’s $5 billion budget gap.
Gov. Dayton and the GOP leadership haven’t committed to a date for the next round of negotiations.
Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield) told Patch in a a statement which now seems to rings true.
In addition, Richfield Patch in the event of a shutdown. This number was thrown out in a memorandum by City Manager Steve Devich to the Richfield City Council. Patch has attempted to find out if any workers were in fact let go, however Devich has yet to answer.
Currently Richfield Patch is working on the following stories:
- Teacher Licenses and Test Scores: Many teachers may need to renew their licenses this year, unfortunately with the shutdown this may not be possible. And depending on how long the shutdown lasts, some teachers may not have a license at the beginning of the school year. And with no license, that means no classes. We are trying to find out from Richfield Public Schools if any teachers are in need of renewal. As for test scores, districts use AYP numbers to determine what curriculum changes need to be made each year to help improve teaching methods. Richfield Patch is looking in to what the district will do without those numbers.
- Transportation: The Met Council has said Metro Transit, the Hiawatha light rail line and the Northstar commuter rail will all continue to run normally, at least for now. Richfield has many main bus lines running through the city that residents and those of the surrounding cities rely on.
- Local Lay-Offs: As mentioned above, Patch is waiting to hear back about City of Richfield lay-offs, but we are also looking to talk with residents who have been affected. E-mail Caitlin.Burgess@patch.com to contribute to that article.
There will likely be many more stories pop up as well over the coming days. As always we encourage your comments and opinions.