Minnesota state government shuts down

Friday, July 1, 2005

Nine thousand state employees in Minnesota were left jobless Friday after state legislators failed to pass a spending bill that would have kept the state government up and running.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to the people of Minnesota," said Republican state Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake. "This is disgusting."

It is not uncommon for states to miss their budget deadlines, but Minnesota, in contrast to other states, has no law that automatically extends the previous budget if lawmakers fail to approve a new budget.

Governor Tim Pawlenty accused Democrats of intentionally shutting down the government in order to hurt the Republican governor's chances in the 2006 gubernatorial elections.

"The Senate wanted to shut down government from the beginning," said Steve Sviggum, the leading Republican in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Due to the shutdown, highway rest-stops will not be staffed during the busy July Fourth weekend. Lawmakers agreed, however, to a bill that would keep the state's parks open.

A court order earlier this month requires the state to continue to provide services essential to "health, safety and property."