Minnesota Government Shuts Down
Minnesota’s government shut down Friday for the first time in state history after lawmakers failed to pass a temporary spending plan and left 9,000 employees jobless and highway rest stops unattended for the July Fourth weekend. The shutdown came at midnight after lawmakers failed late Thursday to pass a temporary spending plan to keep the government up and running. The Senate adjourned 20 minutes after Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he hoped the two sides could agree on a stopgap measure to keep the state’s doors open for 10 more days.
“I’d like to say I’m sorry to the people of Minnesota,” said Republican state Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake. “This is disgusting.”
Many states often miss their deadline for enacting new budgets. But Minnesota, unlike other states, has no law that automatically extends spending past the end of its fiscal year if a new budget is not approved.
Earlier Thursday, the Senate passed a temporary measure with no time limit, which the governor and Republican leaders in the House said they would not accept. Most Republicans opposed the bill, saying it would create incentive to drag the budget debate deeper into the summer. House Speaker Steve Sviggum, the Legislature’s leading Republican, indicated he would not allow a House vote on the stopgap bill unless legislative leaders first reached a tentative deal on the full budget.
“The Senate wanted to shut down government from the beginning,” Sviggum said. The governor said Democrats wanted a government shutdown to embarrass him in the run-up to his 2006 re-election campaign.
One hopes partisan electoral calculations weren’t the cause of this. People’s jobs shouldn’t be held hostage for gamesmanship.
Of course, if Minnesota operates like the federal government, these workers will likely get paid for the time that they didn’t work.