Hundreds of them held a vigil at the steps of the state capitol Thursday night and chanted, “We want to work for Minnesota!” and “Tax the rich!”
“The hardest part is the total uncertainty of how long it’s going to last,” said Lynn McElin, who was laid off as a contract worker at the Department of Administration. “I’m proceeding like I’m out of work and I need a new job.”
Hours after a political impasse forced a widespread government shutdown, Minnesota's most vulnerable residents and about 22,000 laid-off state employees began feeling the effects on Friday. (July 1)
Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and the GOP-led legislature have been in a stalemate since the beginning of the legislative session over how to close a projected $5 billion budget deficit.
In an echo of the national budget fight, Dayton wanted to raise taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans. Republicans wanted to close the gap with spending cuts and accounting shifts.
“I cannot accept a Minnesota where people with disabilities lose part of the time they are cared for by personal-care attendants so that millionaires don’t have to pay $1 more in taxes,” Dayton said at 10 p.m. Thursday when it became clear that a deal would not be reached.
Republicans called on the governor to convene a special session so that a stopgap measure could be passed and a shutdown avoided. He refused.
“We have been working tirelessly to meet Gov. Dayton’s funding requests that, in many cases, we matched 100 percent of the way,” state Senate President Amy Koch (R) said in a statement Thursday night. “Unfortunately, Gov. Dayton has chosen to prioritize his rigid, tax-and-spend ideology, rather than prioritize the best interests of Minnesotans as we move into the holiday weekend.”
Negotiators came close to an agreement, with Democrats proposing $35.8 billion in spending over the next two years and Republicans asking for $34 billion. But the budget for health and human services, which constitutes about a third of state spending, proved a sticking point.
Republicans offered a deal that included layoffs of some state workers and teachers along with some unrelated measures they have been unable to pass, including a voter ID law and abortion restrictions.
State parks will not open on what is normally the busy July 4 weekend, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources has estimated tourism losses of $12 million for each week the government is closed.
“It’s awful,” said Lori Peterson, a visitor from Illinois. Her family is headed to Minnesota for an annual fishing trip without the necessary — and now unobtainable — fishing licenses. “We’re talking about going to Canada next year.”