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Minnesota Legislature

Ending the shutdown

Published (8/11/2011)
By Nick Busse
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Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, from left, Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Zellers emerge from budget talks July 14 to report the framework of an agreement had been reached to end the state government shutdown. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)One night’s work in the House and Senate chambers: that’s all it took to end a crisis six months in the making.

Lawmakers convened for a special session on the afternoon of July 19, to pass a dozen spending and tax bills to fund state government for the next two years. By the next morning, Gov. Mark Dayton had signed all 12 bills into law.

The budget compromise between Dayton and the Republican-led Legislature is almost universally disliked, but it ended an unprecedented state government shutdown and put Minnesota back to work.

“I’m not really happy with this budget that I’ve signed into law. It’s not what I wanted. But it’s the best option that is available,” Dayton said.

Technically, the budget will spend $34 billion from the General Fund in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. However, that amount does not include the one-time solutions. Throw in the K-12 school aid payment shift, tobacco revenue bonds and cash flow account transfer, and the budget reaches a total of $35.7 billion.

Representing the Welfare Rights Committee, Angel Buechner of Minneapolis waits for legislators after being among the first to enter the Capitol July 19, 2011. Doors to the building had been locked since the state government shutdown began July 1. (Photo by Andrew VonBank) The deal effectively closed a projected $5 billion budget gap predicted by Minnesota Management & Budget in February. Dayton had hoped to raise income taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents to help erase the deficit, while Republicans planned to hold the budget steady at $34 billion and use cuts alone to trim forecasted growth in spending. The two sides clashed for months and were unable to reach a deal in time to avert a shutdown.

In the end, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said the compromise included some major reforms that would “change our state for a generation.”

“We have worked very closely, very long into the night many times to come up with an agreement that I think will not only change the way Minnesota operates, but it will position our state for a great future,” Zellers said.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo). “We were really excited about the (vetoed) budget that we passed, but there are some very exciting reforms that are in these bills.”

DFL lawmakers, who were largely shut out of final budget talks and who put up very few votes in favor of the final budget, have a much less favorable view of the final agreement.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr. speaks about the omnibus tax bill during the July 19 special session. (Photo by Andrew VonBank) “Republicans refused every single attempt at a fair budget, forcing this borrow-and-spend non-solution on the people of Minnesota in order to end a painful government shutdown,” House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) said in a press release.

Lawmakers are scheduled to convene again at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012.

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