Deal In Place To End Minnesota Shutdown
MARY LOUSE KELLY, host:
Minnesota's state government has been shut down for two weeks. The longest shut down of any state government in many years. But it looks like a solution is at hand. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has reached a budget deal with the Republican-controlled legislature. Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Scheck joins us now to discuss the deal and its impact on the state.
Good morning, Tom.
TOM SCHECK: Good morning.
KELLY: So this shut down has lasted for two weeks. But it was part of a bigger budget standoff that's lasted nearly seven months. What finally broke the impasse?
SCHECK: Well, the shut down itself and the length of the time it took here pretty much broke the impasse. The governor said yesterday that the pain of the shut down was too problematic for the people of Minnesota and he didn't want it to go on any longer.
So he essentially dropped his push for tax hikes of any kind. He wanted an income tax increase on millionaires. And in exchange he wanted the Republicans to drop social policy. They were pushing for a requirement that would require people to present photo identification at the polls when they vote. Things like that.
And also they had to drop a 15 percent of - their push to cut 15 percent of the state's workforce. Once they did that, the deal was in place and they're starting to move forward now with what's next.
KELLY: It's interesting. I understand that similar to what we're seeing here in Washington, some freshman Republicans aligned with the Tea Party, were playing a prominent role in calling for reduced government spending. Are they onboard with this deal?
SCHECK: Many say they aren't really willing to comment right now. They want to see the specifics. The Republican leaders say they can deliver the votes on this. And there's going to be some arm twisting, because Democrats have said we're not voting for it at all. And it's going to be a tough sell.
A lot of freshman Republicans came in to this session, they wore pennies on their lapel pin or lapels - to say they're not going to spend a penny more than the tax revenues that they bring in.
You know, one member I talked to yesterday said she was torn. You know, she had concerns about the way that financing this budget's going to be done. But she was ecstatic that they won't be raising taxes. You know, she said the whole country was watching Minnesota, and it would've sent a message to the entire United States if they, quote, "caved on tax hikes."
KELLY: Well, paint us a little bit of a picture of what these past two weeks have been like. What's been the impact of two weeks without government services?
SCHECK: Well, there were things like the parks were closed. That was something that we saw right away. And then there were things that evolved over time. For example, a lot of businesses started to say, you know, we have greater concerns about this. We have to make layoffs - a lot of businesses that provide social service networks. We heard about domestic abuse shelters, mental health clinics.
But then it was also private businesses. Contractors who pave the roads and who actually were doing road construction projects had to moth ball their projects, because they didn't have anyone inspecting the work that they were doing.
And then earlier this week, bar owners actually said, well, we can't actually buy more beer or alcohol and stock our shelves because we don't have the permits to buy from the wholesaler.
So there were concerns that way. So this problem was evolving over time, and I think the governor and lawmakers started to see that this was having a big impact.
KELLY: And when do we expect to see this shutdown officially end?
SCHECK: Probably next week. The governor says that he hopes it's within days. The legislature has to get together and stitch together the bills. That's going to take over the weekend. The governor could call them back into special session as early as Monday. And then they're going to have to pass the legislation and send it to the governor. So it could be about a week or so.
KELLY: All right. Thank you so much, Tom.
SCHECK: Thank you.
KELLY: And we have been speaking with Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio.
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