Shutdown notebook: Boy has suggestion, get the budget done

Anderson

Ten-year-old Nathan Anderson has a few words of wisdom for Gov. Mark Dayton, spoken as he rolled up his sleeping bag.

“They need to agree on a budget plan so we don’t have to shut government down,” the Stillwater boy urged.

Anderson and his extended family were being politely evicted from Itasca State Park Thursday afternoon as government services ground to a halt.

Sister Kallan Anderson agreed while the 11 campers loaded several vehicles.

“We really had fun but we have to cut it short,” she said.

“We’ve been trying to explain to the kids all day why government can’t solve its problems so they have to shut down,” aunt Natalie Beaulieu explained, stumped for a simple explanation.

Park employees were preparing to go on unplanned and unpaid vacations.

As they closed parks across the state, staff members turned building thermostats to “unoccupied” and completed other tasks to shut down the facilities, said Amy Barrett, a Department of Natural Resources information officer.

The gates would be down and people would be unable to drive through the park, Lake Carlos State Park Manager Elizabeth Murray said. However, during a shutdown people may enter the park on foot or bicycle, according to Murray.

About 3,000 campers have reservations for the holiday weekend that would not be honored if there is a shutdown.

Closing parks were a visible example of what Minnesotans could face living in the only state that could not pass a budget, leading to a shutdown today.

Most states faced problems similar to Minnesota’s $5 billion budget deficit, but have found answers. Iowa, for instance, passed its budget Thursday, avoiding a shutdown.

The impact would be widespread, with loggers in state forests idled, drivers’ tests suspended, lottery tickets not available, state parks and recreation areas mostly closed, state rest areas barricaded, highway construction paused, some college financial aid hampered, the Capitol and most other state buildings closed to the public, many state-issued licenses not available, non-profit organization going without state funding and pollution control services limited.

Master appointed

The judge who ordered many state services to continue has provided an avenue for those who think their funding should keep going to tell it to the judge.

Judge Kathleen Gearin appointed a “special master” to make recommendations to her about disputed situations.

Former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz begins hearing those cases today, and will continue on Tuesday.

Meeting in the Judicial Center, across the street from the closed Capitol, Blatz will hear from people who have filed petitions to continue to receive state money. Each petition will be given 20 minutes, and attorneys for the governor and attorney general’s office will be allowed to ask questions.

Gearin retains final say in what programs are funded.

Loggers sue

Three logger members of the Minnesota Timber Producers group filed suit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to keep access open to state forests during the looming shutdown of state government.

Keith Harsbargen, Kit Harsbargen and Dale Erickson, all of Birchdale, claim the lack of access to state land could cripple their logging operations.

The loggers are seeking a temporary restraining order to keep access to state land open during any shutdown.

DNR forestry officials said they didn’t want timber cutting to continue while they were off the job. But the loggers say the contracts require them to follow best management practices no matter who is watching.

Buildings close

Most state buildings will be closed to the public during a shutdown, including the state Capitol.

Security officials say they will strictly enforce a rule that allows only people with state-issued key card badges with photos into most Capitol complex buildings. The Capitol itself will have limited entrances available.

Public safety mixed

While state troopers and most criminal investigation services would be available in a shutdown, other Public Safety Department programs would close.

For instance, written and driving tests will not be given for obtaining driver’s licenses. Non-state offices like driver’s license agents will be able to new motor vehicle licenses and take new applications. Offices dealing with pipeline and traffic safety will close, along with the state fire marshal.

Licensing suspended

The Health Department announced it will suspend food, beverage, lodging, campground, manufactured home park and swimming pool licensing if there is no budget.

Some counties and cities conduct the inspections and could continue in a shutdown, but many rural counties rely on the state.

A few Health Department workers would continue on the job for emergency investigations.

Ritchie office open

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says his office would remain open in a shutdown.

Saying this week’s court ruling deemed his office critical, Ritchie said the office will not change.

“Every month, our office works to protect the constitutional rights of Minnesotans through a variety of core services,” Ritchie said. “The loss of these services would have been devastating to Minnesotans.”

The office coordinates elections and conducts several business-related services.

 This story includes reports from Sarah Smith of the Park Rapids Enterprise and other Forum Communications Co. newspapers across Minnesota. Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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