06/30/2011 10:25 am ET Updated Aug 30, 2011

Minnesota Government Shutdown Looms As Budget Negotiations Go Down To The Wire (LIVE UPDATES)

The post and live blog below are a collaboration between Patch and HuffPost reporters.

Negotiations are going down to the wire in Minnesota as Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and top state Republican lawmakers work to strike a budget deal to avert a government shutdown ahead of a midnight (CST) deadline.

Little progress was made in talks late Wednesday night, Fridley Patch reports, Dayton and the Minnesota Republicans face the task of closing the state's $5 billion budget gap -- much of it left behind by GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who declined to seek a third term in the 2010 election.

HuffPost's Matt Sledge reports:

Dayton is proposing progressive income tax increases to fix the state budget, which faces a huge gap over the next two years, while the GOP is demanding further spending cuts. Both sides said they were attempting to compromise. But time is running out, and even if an agreement is reached Thursday, it may not come soon enough to avoid a partial shutdown.

In the event of a government shutdown in the North Star State, a wide range of public services would come to a halt. Minnetonka Patch reports what could be expected if a deal is not reached:

A shutdown of state government would suspend virtually all services and divisions within Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources. 

All 74 state parks, recreational areas and campgrounds, visited by millions of people every year, will close.

Conservation and enforcement operations will also cease, and ecological monitoring will come to a halt -- which could have a profound impact on Lake Minnetonka. Zebra mussels were discovered in Lake Minnetonka last summer, and the DNR has made quelling their spread a top priority.

The Minnesota Zoo is not going gently, Apple Valley Patch reports:

An attorney for the Minnesota Zoo -- former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch -- is seeking a temporary restraining order that would keep the zoo open in the event of a state government shutdown.

A shutdown of the Minnesota government would come as the state's second in six years.

Below, a live blog of the latest developments to unfold amid the shutdown threat:

07/22/2011 11:54 AM EDT

Rep. Kurt Bills Speaks Out About Shutdown Budget Deal

Rep. Kurt Bills writes today on Rosemount Patch:

"A true budget solution not only balances our bottom line today, but it puts us on track for sustainability. The state budget package we passed this week gets us pointed in the right direction."

Read more here.

07/22/2011 11:53 AM EDT

With State Budget Now In Place, DNR Returns To Work

Patch's Jeff Roberts reports:

“Welcome back. We missed you,” was the first thing Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr said before announcing that the opening of Minnesota state parks, forests and facilities is ahead of schedule. Originally scheduled to open at 8 a.m. Friday morning, Landwehr reported that as of 11 a.m. Thursday morning, 11 state parks are fully open, with an additional 15 parks partially open.

Read more here.

07/22/2011 11:52 AM EDT

Aftermath: State Aid Shift Is 'Delaying The Problem' For School Districts

Apple Valley Patch's Allison Wickler reports:

School administrators for District 196 will be meeting today to learn more about the state budget’s impact on local education. "I would say it’s certainly going to have an impact on schools," said Tony Taschner, communications director for Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan public school district.

The state government opened for business Thursday, a day after Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law budget bills that will affect everything from schools to health care in terms of state operations. Taschner said Thursday that a delay in school funding is "just further... delaying the problem."

Read more here.

07/21/2011 6:38 PM EDT

New Teacher Evaluations

The AP reports:

Minnesota state workers returning to their offices after a three-week government shutdown will soon have to start processing a host of policy changes included in a pile of budget bills passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

One major change in the education budget bill is a new method of evaluating public school teachers that more closely ties their job status to student performance. The new system won't be fully in place until 2014.

Supporters say it's aimed as much at rewarding good teachers as disciplining bad ones. But the chief Senate sponsor says it should give local districts more latitude to get teachers out of classrooms if they consistently fail to improve student performance.

07/21/2011 6:33 PM EDT

Shutdown Could Have Political Consequences For Both Parties

Minnesota Public radio reports:

After three weeks of a government shutdown during which more than 20,000 state workers sat at home laid off, and state parks, rest stops and countless other operations sat idle, many Minnesotans are angry the people they elected to balance the state budget failed to do so.

Again, Minnesota lawmakers plugged a budget gap with short-term fixes. Rather than making structural changes in the way the state spends and collects money, more payments to schools will be deferred and future tobacco-settlement proceeds will now be tapped for cash.

As a likely consequence, the state's budget problems will return, and that fact hasn't been lost on voters who may remember the gridlock that dominated St. Paul on their next trip to the polls.

Read more here.

07/21/2011 6:23 PM EDT

Staving Off Another State Shutdown: GOP Lawmakers Announce New Legislation

Burnsville Patch's Clare Kennedy reports:

A group of Republican lawmakers today announced a plan that would effectively end state government shutdowns. Under the proposal, if a budget agreement isn’t reached by the end of the legislative session, funding for state services would continue at previous levels.

However, at least one of their colleagues believes a repeat of the 2011 shutdown is not in the cards. Burnsville Rep. Pam Myhra said all involved learned a lesson, albeit the hard way. "One thing I've heard is that the negotiation process (over the last few days) was a positive experience, with a good discussion and lots of give and take.

I think the shutdown was a shame -- unfortunate and unnecessary," Myhra said. "But hopefully this has been a good learning experience that will encourage us to work it out earlier, rather than to push it out and try to make a statement. I don't think it would happen again. It's been very painful for a lot of people."

Read more here.

07/21/2011 6:20 PM EDT

Rep. Thissen Says Middle Class Lost in Budget Deal

Richfield Patch's Caitlin Burgess reports:

"The bottom line is the governor agreed to accept a Republican budget plan by accepting this idea of borrowing money to balance the budget," Thissen said. "After Republican legislators were given seven options to do it in a permanent and more responsible way, he agreed. That’s why DFL legislators were told to leave the room. We didn’t have any part in the final negotiation of bills."

Read more here.

07/21/2011 9:13 AM EDT

Government Reopens, State Employees Return To Work

The AP reports:

Minnesota's government is reopening for business after a nearly three-week shutdown closed state parks, laid off some 22,000 public workers and demonstrated the wide reach of state agencies.

Most state employees were told to start reporting to work at 7 a.m. Thursday, a day after Gov. Mark Dayton signed a budget deal that ended the nation's longest state government shutdown in a decade. It also cost Minnesota millions in lost revenue.

Not all services will resume quickly, and the work backload is expected to be large, but the recalled workers will restart a slew of services from the lottery to enabling licensing for drivers and anglers.

Even horseracing enthusiasts will have their fun back because the shutdown, in one of many examples of the government's reach, forced Canterbury Park horse track to close after state gambling regulators were laid off. It cost horse owners and jockeys more than $1 million in purses and put about 1,000 people out of work.

Read more here.

07/20/2011 8:34 PM EDT

Rep. Pam Myhra: 'I'm Here To Stand On Principle'

Burnsville Patch's Clare Kennedy reports:

Rep. Pam Myhra (R-Burnsville) was working on five hours of sleep when she spoke with Burnsville Patch. "I don't think any of us —the governor included— think we got everything we wanted," Myhra said. "I'm not worried about [backlash]. I'm not in it to be re-elected. I'm here to stand on principle. My goal to have sensible state spending and protect families from tax increases. I want to champion those principles. I will let the election take care of itself."
Click here to read more.

07/20/2011 8:29 PM EDT

Hopkins Legislators Glad Shutdown Over, Unhappy With Legislation

Hopkins Patch's James Warden reports:

Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-District 44A) and Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-District 44) are glad the shutdown is in the past but unhappy with the way the final budget relies so heavily on cuts and borrowing.

“This is regrettable because there were better ways to do this fiscally,” Latz said. “The reduction is two-thirds cuts and one-third borrowing, and to me, this is like paying your bills with a very high interest credit card.”

Click here to read more.