Minnesota's government ends statewide shutdown

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Gov. Mark Dayton is handed the last state budget bill which he signed, ending the government shutdown in St. Paul, Minn.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota’s state government shutdown ended Wednesday after 20 days, millions in lost revenue and frustration on the part of residents and politicians.

The stoppage made the state a national example of political dysfunction, a small-scale mirror of the dispute in Washington over whether to raise the debt ceiling. But while federal lawmakers appeared close to a deal to slash spending, no such progress was made in Minnesota, where the budget was widely panned for just putting the problems off until later.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton pushed for months to raise taxes on the state’s richest residents to provide more money for social services, while Republicans adopted a “live within our means” motto. In the end, the state will spend more by delaying aid to schools and borrowing against future payments from a legal settlement with tobacco companies.

In contrast, the proposal being floated Wednesday in Washington would cut entitlement programs while raising some taxes. In both cases, members of both parties have bitter pills to swallow.

Dayton said the budget was the best deal he could get given what he called Republican stubbornness.

“I signed it because otherwise Minnesota wouldn’t go back to work,” he said at a Capitol bill signing ceremony.

Republicans were equally unhappy, having voted to spend more than they wanted. They also gave up on proposals to ban funding for stem cell research and curb public employees’ bargaining rights, while agreeing to a $500 million construction financing package Dayton wanted for university buildings and flood projects.

“We did compromise with the governor in giving him more money, more money than a lot of Republicans wanted to spend, more money than I wanted to spend,” House Majority Leader Matt Dean said on Minnesota Public Radio.