Minnesota government shuts down

@CNNMoney July 3, 2011: 1:53 PM ET
Government shuts down in Minnesota

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said shutdown marked "a day of great sorrow."

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A budget stalemate forced a virtual full shut down of the Minnesota government on Friday, and left only a limited array of state services in operation over the busy holiday weekend.

Visitors won't be able to go to the state parks, and travelers will find the highway rest stops shuttered. Road construction projects will cease, as will licensing for teachers and businesses.

Many social service agencies will lose their funding, cutting state support for programs such as job training and homelessness prevention. Those that don't have reserves will likely close their doors.

Up to 23,000 state workers are scheduled to be laid off, though they will continue to get health benefits and can return to their jobs when the budget impasse is resolved.

Basic health and safety services will continue, a judge ruled on Wednesday. The state must continue funding custodial care for residents in prisons, treatment centers and nursing homes. The state troopers will continue to patrol, and state universities will also remain open.

After being closed down for two days, the Minnesota Zoo was set to reopen Sunday, after the judge ruled that it could use funds from admissions, parking, concessions, memberships and donations to operate.

But the stalemate is not likely to end soon. There were no talks scheduled for the holiday weekend, between Governor Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers who control the legislature.

Dayton held a news conference to announce an impasse in budget talks on Thursday, two hours before the fiscal year ended at midnight.

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At issue is whether to close the remaining $1.4 billion gap, by increasing taxes or making spending cuts. The governor, who ran on a platform of taxing the rich, wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1.9% of Minnesotans, as well as cut spending. Republicans would not go along with a tax hike.

Dayton and GOP leaders spent hours behind closed doors over the past week trying to hammer out a compromise. But they could not resolve their differences in time.

"This is a night of deep sorrow for me," Dayton said, adding that he did not want to slash the state safety net to spare millionaires.

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Shortly after Dayton held the news conference, House and Senate Republicans met with the media and accused the governor of "throwing in the towel" with two hours to go.

"This is very disappointing, very disheartening," House Speaker Kurt Zellers said.

This is the second time in six years the Minnesota government has been forced to shut down after budget talks failed. The last shutdown was a partial one that lasted for eight days in 2005, when Tim Pawlenty was governor.

State government shutdowns are relatively rare. Though it's not uncommon for states to enter the fiscal year without a budget in place, officials usually extend funding for operations for several days or weeks until a spending plan can be put in place.

--A CNN Wire report was used in compiling this article. To top of page

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