The state of Minnesota has shut down, leaving St. Louis Park resident among more than 20,000 public employees now without a job.
After weeks of intense negotiations, capped by closed-door sessions through Thursday’s waning minutes, Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers failed to agree on an operating budget for the coming biennium.
Earlier in the week, Dayton said a deal would have to be done by Wednesday in order to draft and pass the necessary legislation. But Thursday, the governor continued meeting with GOP leaders on-and-off trying to put an agreement in place.
The shutdown will trigger the loss of a number of state services not deemed critical by a Ramsey County judge on Wednesday. It will also leave Kaufman, a City Council candidate who works as a state negotiations manager, searching for what’s next.
“I have a wife and three kids,” Kaufman said. “It’s a fairly big concern.”
Kaufman said only one person kept his job among his small team of five within the larger Department of Administration. The other four got official notices Thursday morning from the human resources department.
“(There was) a lot of anxiety in coming down to the last minute,” Kaufman said.
The council candidate said he would spend his shutdown free time focusing on his kids and campaign. He said he doesn’t have another source of income, and because of the uncertainty of how long a shutdown will last, doesn’t think he will get one.
“I didn’t know until today if I would be working or not,” Kaufman said. “So how do we set up another job?”
Kaufman said he might file for unemployment if a shutdown drags on, adding that he believes a number of other state employees might as well. He said he has supported the governor’s position throughout, adding that his impression is that Dayton is more concerned with public workers than Republican legislators are.
“I think there is a lot of frustration (among state employees) with the legislature,” Kaufman added.
There appeared to be a glimmer of hope early Thursday evening that a deal might be reached. But at around 8:30 p.m., Rep. Tony Cornish (R-District 24B) reported to his seat in the Minnesota House saying he had received a message from the GOP leadership to do so.
“There is always time for a deal,” Cornish told reporters as he walked into the House.
The gesture was called “grandstanding,” “theatrics” and “mock legislature” by Democratic minority leaders Sen. Tom Bakk and Rep. Paul Thissen.
Bakk took the podium at 9 p.m. and pleaded with his GOP counterparts to return to the negotiating table instead of sitting in the legislature.
“We are running out of time,” he said plainly.
Bakk’s statement proved prophetic. Fiscal year 2012-13 began at 12:01 a.m. today without a budget in place. Owing to a June 29 ruling by Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin, state correctional facilities, nursing homes, public safety, and payment of medical services are all considered “core functions” of government and will continue operating. Everything else is no longer functional until a budget deal is reached.
St. Louis Park Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-District 44) said he was "saddened, (and) certainly frustrated" by the shutdown.
"The Republicans have decided they'd rather shut down to protect the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans," Latz said, a reference to Dayton's plan to raise revenue by implementing a new tax on the state's highest earners.
At the heart of the impasse is a nearly $2 billion difference between the governor’s operating budget and the budget proposed by the GOP. Dayton and GOP leadership haven’t committed to a date for the next round of negotiations.