Update: June 30 at 11:58 p.m.: As midnight neared Thursday evening and a budget deal between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican legislative leaders looked less and less likely, thousands of Minnesotans—including many laid-off state workers—flocked to the steps of the capitol building for a "candlelight vigil" sponsored by two unions, AFSCME and MAPE. Attendees wore glowstick lanyards around their neck, waved signs and chanted "We want to work" and "Tax the richest."
DFL Rep. Rick Hansen of Mendota Heights waited outside the capitol steps Thursday evening trying, he said, "to be as receptive as I can to constituents."
He said he was worrying about the consequences of a shutdown.
"What if we have a tornado?" he asked. "What if we have a flood? There's things we take for granted that public services provide."
While he would have preferred to prevent a government shutdown, he said that "if we adopted the budget the Republicans proposed, we would have had massive layoffs permanently."
"Considering how the Republican majority's positions are, I don't think we could have ended up any differently without individual legislators saying they want to avoid the shutdown."
Update: June 30 at 6:58 p.m.: For the first time since Monday, leadership from both the GOP and DFL offered a glimmer of hope for the seemingly stagnant budget negotiations.
Briefing the media assembled outside Gov. Mark Dayton’s office, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) reiterated how close the two parties were to a deal, Session Daily reported.
“We’ve always maintained that a government shutdown is not only unnecessary but just bad for Minnesotans,” Zeller said. “We’re here. We’re ready to go. It’s time for the governor to call us back (for a special session). We’re too close to the end.”
Sen. Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) pleaded with the governor to not shut down the government over a tax increase, the Pioneer Press reported.
“Please keep the state open,” Koch said. “It’s the Fourth of July; it’s beautiful outside. Let’s let Minnesotans get to those campgrounds and state parks. Let’s let them enjoy the weekend.”
MinnPost reported that Reublican Sen. Geoff Michel (R-Edina) called for Gov. Dayton to approve a “lights-on” bill that would allow for temporary funding after July 1, while the legislature figured out the most complex parts of the budget.
Put simply, if a lights-on bill were passed, the government would not shut down.
“The legislature can pass one bill tonight that would keep the state open,” Michel explained in the Star Tribune. “All we need is for the governor to sign the order to call us back. We do not want to be part of a shutdown. It is not necessary.”
“I believe we could get to a budget framework tonight,” Koch added. “All we need is temporary funding to do that.”
Gov. Dayton has repeatedly refused to call back the legislature without a deal on the table and when the DFL got its turn to speak, Minority Leaders Sen. Bakk (D-Virginia) and Rep. Paul Thissen (District 63A) echoed that sentiment.
“Everyone is committed to working on a deal that makes sense for most Minnesotans,” Thissen said. “Minnesotans want a complete deal. They want a deal that is finished.”
According to Session Daily, DFL leaders were optimistic about the prospects of avoiding a shutdown.
“I do think a global agreement tonight that would prevent a shutdown is within reach,” Bakk said before returning to the negotiating table.
Update: June 30 at 3:35 p.m.: Senate Majority Caucus Spokesperson Michael Brodkorb emerged Thursday afternoon from the latest round of talks with nothing new to share.
"Respecting the cone of silence, I cannot comment on whether or not they're close to a deal," Brodkorb said. "There is no deal right now and there are no more meetings scheduled for today."
In a rare moment of optimism, Brodkorb did say that he fully expects that to change.
"The Republican leadership is here and not going anywhere," he said. "I cannot confirm anything but I expect them to meet again today."
No one from Gov. Mark Dayton's office addressed the on-site media.
Richfield Patch contributor David Haines was at the Capitol this afternoon talking with protesters and snapping photos. Stay tuned for this story.
Update: June 30 at 1:10 p.m.: Talks between GOP leaders and Gov. Dayton have finished after just 30 minutes.
Senate Majority caucus spokesperson, Michael Brodkorb, says he expects more meetings later in the day but nothing is scheduled.
According to Brodkorb, nearly every state senator is at the Capitol.
“They will be here the balance of the day, working towards solutions and compromises and other discussions,” Brodkorb told the press corps.
It would seem the House has also begun gathering at the Capitol. According to one House member, "there are more (representatives) than usual on a nice summer day.”
Update: June 30 at 12:45 p.m.: Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers have just resumed budget negotiations in an effort to avoid a government shutdown and preempt layoffs of around 22,000 Minnesotans.
This morning’s 10 a.m. meeting ended after and hour and 15 minutes with little to report. As has become the norm, neither the governor nor Republican leaders briefed the on-site media following the meeting.
While things seem to be moving slowly inside the State Capitol, community organizations have taken to the Capitol grounds in protest. A preliminary look at today’s schedule of protests is as follows:
- MN Council of Nonprofits: 10-11 a.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)
- MAPE Union: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Andersen Building, Lobby)
- Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans: noon-2 p.m. (State Capitol, Mall & Lower Lawn)
- Welfare Rights Committee: noon-2 p.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)
- Fighting Back the Shutdown Rally: 3-5 p.m. (State Capitol, Rotunda)
- Fighting Back the Shutdown Rally: 5-7 p.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)
- American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees: 9-11 p.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)
Richfield Patch will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.