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Government shutdown Day 5: talks to resume

Tourists often can be seen roaming the Minnesota Capitol, but most of the Capitol is quiet due to a government shutdown. Some state employees and the media have access to the building during the shutdown. Photo by Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders meet this afternoon to restart budget talks and end the state government shutdown, but there was no hope of quick deal.

Dayton asked for the meeting and Senate Republicans confirmed the invitation has been accepted.

In the meantime, some former Minnesota government leaders suggested forming a committee of ex-policymakers to work out a budget deal.

And today was the day people could begin feeling a shutdown. Friday was the first day, but coming before a holiday weekend government officials said it normally would be a slow day in any case. More Minnesotans are bound to find out today how a shutdown affects them.

Restarting the budget talks may not be easy. Some Republicans are furious at Dayton.

Take, for instance, Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, a key panel when it comes to funding state government.

"The guy should resign," Parry told the Mankato Free Press about Dayton. "He should resign as governor and let (Lt. Gov.) Yvonne Prettner Solon finish out his term because he's shown to me that he doesn't care about the state of Minnesota."

Parry continued: "Let me tell you, the governor has no feelings. If he did, he would not put 22,000 people out of work on July 1. He has no feelings. ... The shutdown doesn't bother him at all. He gets his trust fund."

The southern Minnesota senator's comments show that last week's breakdown of budget talks still hurts. While Dayton spoke Thursday night, several Republicans heckled him.

This morning, former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Gov. Arne Carlson proposed forming a committee that could produce a budget solution. They suggested former Sen. Steve Dille, a moderate Republican from Dassel, as co-chairman.

Also today, former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz continued in her role as "special master" in hearing from programs that lost funding in a shutdown but felt they should continue to operate. Dozens of programs are appearing before her.

Dayton presented a long list of programs he felt should be continued, which would keep a third of state executive branch employees working during a shutdown, but now has suggested extending those to include special education aid; chemical dependency and mental health services; HIV case management and counseling services; services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes; and child care assistance and services for the homeless, the disabled and other vulnerable Minnesotans.

The governor said his Cabinet will continue to assess what is deemed "critical."

Judge Kathleen Gearin approved of Dayton's earlier suggestions, allowing programs deemed "critical" to continue despite a state Constitution provision that requires all state spending to be approved by the Legislature. The Legislature and Dayton only approved a bill funding agriculture programs. Dayton vetoed the rest of the spending bills a day after the regular legislative session ended in May.

Gearin called the budget dispute a "constitutional crisis."

"Because of the strict language of the Minnesota Constitution, there are severe limits on what state government can do without legislative appropriations," Dayton said. "Chief Judge Gearin's order confirms those limits. We will continue to do the very best we can within the court's order to protect the lives, health, and safety of all Minnesotans."

While much of the executive branch is closed, the Legislature and courts continue to operate at full strength.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.