Minnesota Shutdown Roundup: Judge rules jobs for disabled non-essential
Gov. Mark Dayton addressed reporters and the state of Minnesota on Monday, detailing his efforts to resolve the state’s budget and end the government shutdown. Dayton also announced his intention to embark on a statewide tour explaining the shutdown and his arguments.
Later on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch responded, saying “Compromise is not just about who are you taxing and how much are you are taxing them. We have to have the discussion on what are you spending the money on, and how does that differ from what we’re doing and in what way is it more sustainable going forward.
“That’s the important compromise discussion we need to hear, and we’re not hearing that from the governor,” Koch said, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Meanwhile, here are some other shutdown-related news items that made headlines around the state Monday:
• Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled that a program that helps severely disabled people find jobs doesn’t qualify for funding during the state’s government shutdown, according to the Associated Press.
Gearin denied the request Monday, going against the recommendation of former Supreme Court Chief Justice and shutdown Special Master Kathleen Blatz.
The Minnesota Association of Community Rehabilitation Organizations said the program performs a critical government function, but Gearin’s ruling said it serves an “admirable goal” but isn’t “so essential” that it overcomes constitutional requirements.
The Star Tribune reported that some of Blatz’s Monday recommendations could bring bad news for the state’s new nurses, auto dealers and Minnetonka Beach. Blatz said the Nursing Board cannot be funded to accept applications for nurses licenses, the state’s Drivers and Vehicle Services department cannot keep the electronic vehicle registration system running for auto dealers, and the state Health Department cannot review the city of Minnetonka Beach’s water main plans.
• Though most of the state’s K-12 schools are managing through the shutdown, it’s creating headaches for some parts the educational system.
If the shutdown continue much longer, students planning to retake their state Graduation-Required Assessment for Diploma (GRAD) tests in the coming days may have to wait until a later date, the Star Tribune reported. In the Anoka-Hennepin school district, that affects an estimated 500 students who had planned to re-test on Tuesday, Wednesday or July 19. Those testing dates will be canceled “unless the shutdown ends,” said district spokeswoman Mary Olson.
Also, the Twin Cities Planet reported many state-funded grants and scholarships for financing graduate and undergraduate educations have been put out of reach for Minnesotan students.
State grants and scholarships like State Work study programs, the Minnesota Indian scholarship, Child Care grants and the Minnesota GI bill have all been suspended.
“Its not a question of if, but when students are paid,” said Kris Wright, director of the University of Minnesota’s Office of Student Finance.
• Many of the state’s most famous historical sites have fallen victim to the shutdown, the Mankato Free Press reported.
Even though many historic sites are operated by local historical societies, they’re owned by the state and are closed as a result of the shutdown in the height of tourist season.
“We’re very frustrated that we can’t serve the public and we can’t offer the programs we were going to offer,” said Ben Leonard, executive director of the Nicollet County Historical Society. “… But we’re ready to reopen when the state reopens.”
If the shutdown continues through August, the Free Press reported, the financial impact for the state and for local organizations would be substantial. It’s estimated that losing the entire month of July would cost the state $650,000 in revenue from historic sites statewide, Leonard said.
“If we’re not earning that revenue, the percentage of tax dollars in operating these sites is going to be higher,” he said. “And I don’t think anybody wants that.”
• On July 19, 20, and 21 the Bush Foundation of St. Paul and [InCommons will be holding Budget Townhalls](http://minnesotaindependent.com/ www.incommons.org/citizensolutions) in Grand Rapids, the Twin Cities and Rochester to offer policy makers new ideas for real, sustainable solutions to Minnesota’s budget. According to a release, The Bush Foundation and InCommons will be compiling the results of these meetings to share with Gov. Dayton, members of the Legislature and the citizens of Minnesota.
• Some of the state’s more than 22,000 public employees who’ve been laid off as a result of the shutdown are seeking jobs in other states, the Boston Globe reported.
Kent Mechels, a laid off state employee, told the Globe he’s considering leaving the state to find work elsewhere.
“I’m looking at other state agencies in different states right now. I’ve lived in Minnesota my entire life. I may be leaving,’’ said Mechels, a Rochester resident. “When the state government treats their employees like this, I don’t need to be part of it.’’
• Some Minnesotans seeking to enjoy the great outdoors or buy some lottery tickets are taking otherwise-unnecessary trips to Wisconsin parks, the Northlands NewsCenter reported.
• The Minnesota Department of Health said, because of the shutdown, they don’t have enough staff to inspect every festival and fair taking place around the state this summer. This means that all the food consumed at these festivals may not be completely safe for fairgoers, the Rochester Post Bulletin reported.
State food safety inspectors will visit food vendors at all the big festivals and fairs, including Moondance Jam in Walker next week and WE Fest in Detroit Lakes in early August.
Department spokesman John Stieger said inspectors will only go to fairs and festivals that are expected to draw 10,000 people or more.
The Health Department doesn’t have an estimate of how many fairs and festivals its inspectors could skip if the government shutdown continues for another few weeks. But the agency has determined that at least 29 county fairs are large enough to qualify for inspection between now and Aug. 7.
Officials said every food vendor at the Minnesota State Fair in August will undergo a full inspection.
• Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus has begun running statewide radio ads encouraging Minnesota lawmakers to consider expanded horse-track gambling as a source of new tax revenue to help end the state’s government shutdown, according to the Associated Press.
Dayton and GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers have both said gambling tax revenue could be part of a budget deal.