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Talking Points: What's in a government shutdown? We might not know 'til it happens

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Talking Points: What's in a government shutdown? We might not know 'til it happens
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

Our state government is on the road to a July shutdown because the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton can't get together on a budget deal for the next biennium.

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Minnesota is facing a $5 billion deficit, and lawmakers want to make it go away without raising taxes while Dayton wants to collect about $1.8 billion in new taxes to bridge the deficit.

Lawmakers are proposing a $34 billion spending cap and Dayton wants it at $37 billion. The governor has said he wants to meet half-way between those numbers but the GOP-controlled Legislature isn't biting -- they've already compromised, they say, and there's little chance right now that they'll be moved off their $34 billion cap.

Neither side has budged in recent days, although Republican leaders and Dayton met for about 90 minutes on Friday and are scheduled to work on the issue more on Monday.

So here we go, off into the great unknown that is a government shutdown.

Many can remember the 2005 partial government shutdown when, at that time, a DFL-controlled Legislature was fighting with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The sides fought over the budget for 7-1/2 months and in a seven-week special session that resulted in an eight-day shutdown before a deal was reached.

How would a shutdown affect us? It's hard to say exactly, other than the scope and reach of state government is so broad that the effects might not be fully known unless things do grind to a halt.

Stevens County Coordinator Brian Giese said there could be some road and bridge fund cash-flow issues, so the county has been working to try and get state-aid funding requests for maintenance in so that in the event of shutdown the money might already be on the way.

It's difficult to say how essential services would be affected, he said.

For example, does a state shutdown mean no State Patrol on the roads? Would federal dollars make it out to the state? Would state payrolls get out?

"It could have a huge impact," Giese said. "We had the shutdown in 2005 but this is different. This might be unprecedented."

Morris City Manager Blaine Hill said the timing of a potential shutdown could be troublesome.

The city receives about two-thirds of its roughly $3 million General Fund revenue from Local Government Aid. That likely would stop in the event of a shutdown, and it would come just as reserves would be running low before that second-half LGA money should be arriving.

The city has six months in reserve, but that six months starts in January, he said.

"If there is a shutdown, our reserves will be getting to the point that we would start being pretty nervous about that," Hill said. "Everything we do, the source is LGA."

Transportation and essential services were kept running during the last, brief shutdown. Hill isn't sure if that would be the case this time. People tend to forget that there are a lot of state employees in the area who would be greatly affected by a shutdown and no paycheck.

But people also could be the deciding factor, he said, especially with the shutdown set to commence just days before the July 4 holiday.

State parks would be closed if government does turn off the lights and lock the doors. The threat of ruining a popular holiday weekend likely factored into the 2005 resolution, he said.

"The ones that (government leaders) will hear from first are the people who had a sweet spot reserved in a state park and now they can't go camping," Hill said. "I believe people will be the ones to force them out of a shutdown."

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