Government shuts down after no budget deal in Minnesota
The Minnesota legislature adjourned in May with no budget in place, forcing a debate that has since yielded no agreement. Republicans sought a $34 billion budget with deep cuts while the governor argued for a $35.8 billion budget that included a tax on the top 2 percent of the state’s wealthiest residents — a sticking point for Republicans.
“This really is a power fight — not a fiscal fight — over the fundamental principles of how much power government should have over us,” says Steve Stanek, a tax policy research expert at the Heartland Institute in Chicago. “I think that’s why there is so much division. I think some lawmakers see this and that is why they are standing firm.”
A similar budget stalemate occurred in Iowa, just as presidential hopefuls traversed the cornfields and farm halls to attract future caucus support.
Lawmakers there, in a legislature divided between a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, continued an 11th-hour negotiation over budget items including education, human services, infrastructure and property-tax relief, which has been an ongoing sticking point to an Iowa deal. They finalized a budget plan Thursday afternoon, giving approval to a $5.9 billion spending deal.
In the wake of a Minnesota shutdown, all courts will remain open, funding for K-12 education will continue along with welfare assistance and unemployment benefits, Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled. But state construction projects will cease, highway rest stops will close and services like driver’s license testing will be suspended along with new claims for veterans services, including tuition reimbursement.
Mr. Stanek said there is no telling how long a shutdown might last, noting “a real impasse” that has exposed fundamental divisions in policy and political philosophy.
“The governor and lawmakers are far apart on spending and tax issues,” Mr. Stanek said. “Sometimes you get these backroom deals where leaders meet in private and come out with a proposal and they twist arms of allies and it doesn’t last real long. I hope a lot of lawmakers do stand up for good principles here, for trying to keep taxes low and trying to set good spending priorities. Don’t cut a deal just to make a deal.
“We have a lousy economy, we have very slow growth and many people who are unemployed or underemployed,” he said. “They have had to make tough decisions on how to manage their money. The state ought to do the same.”
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