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Minnesota shutdown roundup: Legislators still paid despite lack of progress

Here are some of the shutdown-related news items that made headlines this weekend:

• A total of 138 of the state’s legislators have continued to receive pay during the state government shutdown, the Star Tribune reported.

Before the shutdown began, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he wouldn’t accept pay in the event of a shutdown. Soon after, 14 senators and 48 representatives said they’d also deny pay. That means 79 percent of the Senate and 65 percent of the House still are collecting paychecks in July, according to the Star Tribune.

As we reported Friday, DFL Rep. Frank Horstein is donating his July salary to four nonprofits in Minneapolis that have been hit by the shutdown and budget cuts.

• Rep. Matt Dean (R-Maplewood) wrote an open letter to Dayton, providing suggestions and solutions to the shutdown.

Dean said Dayton should abandon his calls for increased taxes. He urged the governor to call a special session and pass a “lights on” bill that would allow government functions to continue while a final bill is negotiated.

“There is no reason to shut down the entire state government while we continue to look for resolutions on areas of disagreement,” Dean wrote. “Thousands of Minnesotans want nothing more than to show up for work and do their jobs. By fighting in court for the right to stand between them and their paychecks, you are demanding that they go on strike for your party and the special-interest groups it represents.”

The representative noted the shutdown has negatively thrust the state into the national spotlight and, with the shutdown, “Minnesotans are having a long-overdue conversation about the proper role, size and cost of government.”

“Gov. Dayton, call us when you are ready to put Minnesota back to work,” Dean said at the conclusion of his letter. “Call us when you are ready to discuss real government reform that will prevent us from doing this all over again in 2013. Call us when you are serious about negotiating a settlement to this budget stalemate.”

The St. Cloud Times reported abuse shelters around the state — including some in Thief River Falls, Fergus Falls and Dakota County — have been forced to close because of the shutdown.

Funding for the shelters wasn’t on the original list of the state’s essential services and they depend on state funding to function. Anna Marie’s Alliance in St. Cloud won’t stop aiding victims in the short term, director Maxine Barnett told the St. Cloud Times.

Barnett said she hopes a Ramsey County District Court judge will agree with a recommendation from Dayton for abuse-shelter funding to continue during the shutdown. Dayton clarified in a court filing last week that he wanted that funding to be defined by the judge as essential.

• One of the biggest impacts of the shutdown may be on the state’s child care services, the New York Times reported.

The shutdown has meant the state has had to cut child care subsidies for many of the state’s poor parents.

About 21,000 families with a total of 37,500 children in Minnesota receive day care subsidies that pay about half of the cost of child care at centers or in private homes. An additional 4,000 families are on a waiting list.

“Of the things involved in the shutdown, this is the one that could grow into a crisis because of all the people who rely on it,” Sen. John Marty (D-Roseville) told the Times. “This program has done tremendous things for women who had been on welfare.”

Dayton classified the subsidy program as one of his critical services and his request to keep it funded during the shutdown is being considered by shutdown Special Master, Judge Kathleen Blatz.

• Blatz held an emergency hearing Friday afternoon to permit Minnesota families to continue the process of their adoptions, The UpTake reported. The judge ruled that the Minnesota government being open for accepting adoption paperwork during the shutdown was in line with Judge Kathleen Gearin’s order on the shutdown from last month.

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