Minnesota's government shutdown hit a record 14th day on Thursday, and Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and the Republican-dominated legislature have no talks planned to hammer out a deal to close a $5 billion budget gap. Minnesota's is already the longest state shutdown in history, and on Friday, the North Star State will tie the "epic 15-day federal standoff" between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Here, a look at some winners and losers from Minnesota's game of political hardball:
"I think there are far fewer winners than there are losers," Augsburg College economist Ed Lotterman tells Minnesota Public Radio, but there are businesses that will benefit from the slowdown. Top of the list? Law offices. Sadly, that makes sense, says Mark Reilly in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. "Shutdowns cause angst and disruptions, and when projects go bad or get delayed, lawyers get called."
The Democratic governor has made two serious offers to end the budget standoff, says Robin Marty at Care2. Republicans? None. And the GOP's pre-shutdown offer was "fraught with newly returned social issues that had been previously vetoed by the governor." Faced with this obstinacy, Dayton is driving around the state to make his case, and, with uncertainty and a skeleton government, Minnesotans of all stripes are seeing real hits to their quality of life. No wonder "the tide of public opinion is starting to shift against Republicans."
Friday is the end of the first two-week non-pay period for the 22,000 state workers laid off until lawmakers get their act together, says Mike Mullen in the Minneapolis City Pages. "Don't worry about the legislators, though. Most of them are still getting their paychecks." And the only reason all Minnesota lawmakers aren't getting paid, says Reid J. Epstein at Politico, is that Dayton and 62 of the 200 state legislators voluntarily gave up their paychecks during the shutdown.
Beer drinkers and smokers
Summer is about to get a lot drier for Minnesota tipplers, as hundreds of bars and restaurants, unable to renew their alcohol-buying licenses with the state, are rapidly "running out of beer and alcohol, and others may soon run out of cigarettes," says Eric Roper in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Also caught in the crossfire is MillerCoors, whose lapsed license means it has to pull its long list of brews from the state within days. Oh, come on! says John Hinderaker at PowerLine. Other state agencies are operating "on the theory that they represent 'core functions.'" Seriously, "if renewing liquor licenses isn’t a core function of government, what is?"
Minnesota anglers are caught in legal limbo, unable to buy fishing licenses. They're hardly the only ones having trouble enjoying the great outdoors. Most state parks are partly open for day use, but with a skeleton crew of rangers — and no working restrooms. That means "property damage, mounds of stinky garbage and, yep, poop — both pet and human — are piling up along some of Minnesota's most scenic spots," says the St. Cloud Times. "People are taking it upon themselves to go out in the woods and relieve themselves," says Col. Jim Konrad, chief cop of the Department of Natural Resources, "and without the presence of employees and others, they're not picking up after themselves."
The standoff between Dayton and the Republican-dominated legislature is the immediate cause of the record shutdown, says Walter Shapiro at CBS News. But the core problem is "a $5 billion projected deficit bequeathed by Dayton's two-term predecessor, Tim Pawlenty." That's a problem for Pawlenty's presidential aspirations, and he "knows his financial stewardship is on the line." Dayton does, too, which is probably why — "undoubtedly relishing every moment" — he pointed out that his most recent deal, a $1 increase in the cigarette tax, is remarkably similar to his GOP predecessor's 75-cents-a-pack hike.