Dayton signs budget to end shutdown, state employees back to work tomorrow
Minnesota's shutdown is over.
Mark Dayton signed the nine budget bills and three spending bills at 9:00 a.m., ending the state's embarrassing, costly lockout on its 20th day. The shutdown's end is good news for the 22,000 state employees, who will be recalled to work at 6 a.m. tomorrow, according to the state's BeReadyMN.com website.
Dayton also announced that state parks would reopen tomorrow.
But even at the announcement, Dayton sounded a disappointed chord about the budget, saying he was forced to sign bills he didn't like.
"I'm not particularly happy with this budget I've just signed into law," he said. "I signed it because otherwise Minnesota wouldn't go back to work."
The $35.7 billion budget that will govern the next two years is an unwieldy one, with increased or stable spending in some areas -- including a $497 million bonding bill to fund construction projects across the state -- and steep cuts in others.
As part of a temporary balancing act to fill the $1.4 billion hole in the budget, the state will delay $700 million in state aid to schools, leaving districts to borrow on their own, and will cash in $700 million in bonds from the 1998 settlement won from tobacco companies.
On taxes, the issue that ultimately brought negotiations to a halt, the Republicans can claim a major victory. There will be no income tax increases of any kind, an infuriating reality for Dayton and DFL legislators.
"You have repeated that your caucuses will oppose any additional tax revenue from any source, even my proposals which limit the income tax increase to only the richest 2%, or even the richest 0.3% of all Minnesota taxpayers," Dayton wrote last week in the letter to Republican leadership which started the final negotiations.
In his speech during the tax bill debate last night, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said "Republicans would be so stubbornly stuck to protecting millionaires that they would actually shut down our state," rather than agree to a tax increase.
State GOP vice chair Michael Brodkorb didn't think much of Thissen's last-minute speechifying.
Dayton rescued metro area transit from the 80 percent funding cut Republicans wanted, but the 40 percent, $52 million funding decrease that passed still has plenty of sting to it.
Similar agreements were reached across nearly every category: Dayton asked for continued funding levels -- and, in some cases, funding increases -- and Republicans came back with a lowball offer, with the two eventually settling somewhere in the middle.
The Minnesota legislature started the current session on January 4, 197 days before Dayton signed the budget.
"I'm very relieved," Dayton said, that it's about to be over."
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