Minnesota Republican legislators’ incredibly stubborn and increasingly costly refusal to impose a small tax on the state’s wealthiest 2 percent has Minnesota in its 12th day of a government shutdown. Not only have most of the state’s vital services closed their doors but most of the state’s 38,000 public employees are out of work.
The cost of the shutdown is rising. Tom Stinson, state economist at the Minnesota Management and Budget office, estimates that Republicans’ refusal to sit down and negotiate with Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is costing about $23 million a week. Says Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson:
It’s time for Minnesota Republicans to get back to work and compromise with Gov. Mark Dayton instead of protecting millionaires and billionaires.
If you are a Minnesotan, click here to sign a petition by the Minnesota AFL-CIO urging Republican lawmakers to return to negotiations over the budget.
Meanwhile, Workday Minnesota editor Barb Kucera reports that at a news conference on the steps of the Capitol in St. Paul today 50 pastors and religious leaders:
mixed quotes from Scripture with economic analysis, faith leaders called on lawmakers to end the state government shutdown and adopt a budget that addresses Minnesota’s racial disparities in jobs and health care.
The faith leaders delivered a letter signed by more than 235 Minnesota clergy asking legislative leaders and Dayton to “find creative ways to ask those who have done well to make small sacrifices so that we can invest in those who’ve been hurt most by the economic downturn.”
“We come together to raise our voices to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable,” said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel in Minneapolis.
The vulnerable include the many people who depend on state public services and those who would be hurt by the Republican “cuts-only” budget, the religious leaders said. In particular, the budget needs to address the fact that people of color in Minnesota lag far behind the majority white population in employment, income, health and a number of other measures.
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Before the July 1 shutdown, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) had proposed a budget with significant budget cuts but also with the small tax that was estimated to affect only 7,700 of the state’s $1 million-a-year and up earners. But Republicans instead refused to abandon their all-cuts budget that would slash education, health and human services, public safety, jobs and economic development.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Dayton has offered a variety of alternative ways to raise revenue, but Republicans haven’t budged, writes Rachel E. Stassen-Berger on the paper’s Hot Dish Politics Blog .
“I’m willing to look for other sources of revenue,” Dayton said. He said he hasn’t received any counter-offer from Republicans since he made another stab at finding a solution last week. “In the meantime, I’m just offering varying possibilities. I want to get this resolved. The people of Minnesota want to get this resolved…I’ve offered everything I can think of to get this matter settled.”
Last week, three Republican lawmakers refused an invitation to attend a community meeting in Eagan to talk about the shutdown. Michael Moore, editor of Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation’s Union Advocate reports that:
The lawmakers’ no-show did little to reassure constituents on hand – mostly union members, including some state workers laid off as a result of the ongoing shutdown – that compromise is in the offing at the Capitol.
“I know negotiations are not the easiest thing to do, especially when money is tight,” said Eagan resident Duane Butorac, who works for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “My question to my representative is where is the art of negotiation when it’s my way or the highway?”
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