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Minnesota government shutdown nears an end, but at what cost?

The Minnesota governor and legislative Republicans say they have a deal to end a government shutdown that began on July 1. But budget experts say the deal is fiscally 'unustainable.'

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) speaks to the media in St. Paul, Minn. Dayton and top Republicans struck a deal Thursday to end a budget impasse that prompted a state government shutdown.

Leslye Davis/The Star Tribune/AP

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The longest state government shutdown in US history appears to be moving toward a conclusion in Minnesota.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and the Republican leaders in his state agreed to work late Friday to hammer out a budget deal that addresses a $5 billion deficit by restructuring the state’s financing instead of raising taxes or cutting spending.

Both parties plan to generate $1.4 billion by delaying school payment to the state’s K-12 public schools and borrowing against future tobacco settlement revenue. Budget experts likened the deal to kicking the can down the road.

A special session vote in the House and Senate is expected as early as Monday. If approved, the shutdown will end. More than 22,000 state workers have been furloughed since the shutdown went into effect July 1.

The deal struck between the governor and state Republicans Thursday allows both sides to declare victory, albeit one that is not as strong as each hoped. Republicans forced Governor Dayton to give up his signature campaign promise to raise income tax on the wealthiest in the state, and Dayton can now say he saved thousands of state jobs that Republicans wanted on the chopping block.

Not only did Dayton get Republicans to agree to drop their proposed 15 percent reduction in the state work force, he also rescued a $500 million construction bond proposal he said would generate hundreds of jobs in the private sector.

Republican leaders say they have enough votes in both houses for the deal to pass, however some in their party complain their leadership made too many key concessions, which will cost them votes.

“If there can’t be any policy changes contained in any of the legislation, then no. I’m not a supporter,” Sen. Dave Thompson (R) told the Star Tribune.

Fallout from all parties involved is expected. Just as some Republicans complain that their leadership gave in too much to the governor, many Democrats say that Dayton should not have capitulated so readily and didn’t focus his efforts enough to generate the political power needed to stick to his promise of a progressive tax.


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