Minnesota shut down

With Republican lawmakers and the state’s Democratic governor failing to find common ground as a budget debate wages on, the state of Minnesota is undergoing a governmental shutdown effective midnight this morning.

Even after days of debates with state lawmakers, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said in a speech late Thursday that talks between him and state officials “failed to bridge the divide” over their conflicting views on the budget. As a result, around two-thirds of the state’s employees will be furloughed and state-run facilities will be shut down.

“It is the difference between my balanced approach of significant spending cuts combined with income tax increases only on the very wealthiest Minnesotans, versus the Republicans’ ‘all-cuts’ budget,” says Dayton.

The governor adds that, despite many hours of intense negotiations, Republican “remain adamantly opposed to any additional tax revenue." Dayton says that both sides of the spectrum are still divided over a $1.4 billion gap, the difference between the latest offers from Democrats and Republicans.

Minnesota parks and campgrounds will be hit especially hard, as the decision comes days before the Fourth of July long weekend, when the state’s summer hot-spots are usually at their busiest. Travelers en route during Independence Day will also find that they will be unable to stop at the state’s highway rest stops.

Republican leaders have asked Dayton to hold a special session so that funding can be temporarily extended for another ten days while negotiations continue, but Dayton dismissed the idea as a “publicity stunt” that won’t accomplish anything.

"They have known for two months, I have said consistently, that I would not agree to anything until I agree to everything," Dayton says.

While state schools and local governments will continue to be funded during the shutdown, non critical operations, including the Minnesota lottery, the gambling control board and the racing commission will be temporarily retired. Food stamps and Medicaid will continue as usual, as will state police patrol, the court system, prison staffing operations and others. The Minnesota Zoo will also shut down, though animals will continue to be fed and cared until the state is up on its feet again.

If the 25,000 or so state workers file for unemployment benefits, the statewide statistic will jump from 6.6 to 7.6 percent, a figure that Minnesota hasn’t seen in nearly two years.

Five days after it started, Business Insider reporter Zeke Miller says we haven’t seen a real backlash yet but it is coming. This situation is nothing new, however, and it is going on across the country, he says. While Minnesota may be shut-down, the federal government could come next.

“Really what we’re seeing is two different visions for Minnesota or the United States,” says Miller. “The question is ‘Should government be larger and take care of all of its citizens?’” Miller says it is an age-old problem, but never comes to a head until something like a shutdown comes around.