Political Notebook: Shutdown No Surprise

No Minnesotan should be surprised that state government is closed.

The topic even arose in last year’s governor debates, of course with all candidates saying they did not support a shutdown. News accounts mentioned the possibility as the legislative session began at the first of the year.

A House committee discussed shutdown ramifications the second week of January.

And Gov. Mark Dayton devoted quite a bit of time in his Feb. 9 State of the State speech saying that a shutdown would be unMinnesotan.

“I ask you, legislators, I invite you, I implore you, to join with me now, right here in our Capitol and pledge to the people of Minnesota that we will not shut down their government, our government, not next July 1, not any July 1, not any day ever,” Dayton said at the time.

Dayton said all policymakers need to work together.

“And if we all succeed together, the people of Minnesota will win,” Dayton said. “If we fail, the people of Minnesota will lose. It’s that simple. It’s that inescapable.”

In the final hours of Minnesota’s expiring budget, the two sides dug deep into the rhetorical closet for things to say as they blamed the other side for a shutdown.

“I am deeply disappointed in Gov. Dayton’s decision to allow the state of Minnesota’s government to shut down,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said. “We have been working tirelessly to meet Gov. Dayton’s funding requests that in many cases, we matched 100 percent of the way. We … left thinking that a budget agreement was imminent.”

While Koch blamed Dayton for the shutdown, Dayton blamed Republicans.

The Democratic governor said that “my balanced approach and spending cuts” contrasted with Republican unwillingness to consider a tax increase. “They would prefer to protect the richest Minnesotans at the expense of everyone else.”

Costlier cigarettes?

An anti-tobacco group says it has a new poll showing almost three of five Minnesotans support increasing cigarette prices as a way to boost state revenue.

The Raise it for Health coalition is using the poll to push a cigarette tax as a way out of Minnesota’s budget crunch.

The groups says a $1.50 per pack increase would raise about $400 million a year.

Enhanced DL eyed

The state Public Safety Department proposes changing a rule to open the door to driver’s licenses that could be used when Minnesotans visit Canada, Mexico and some Caribbean counties.

The so-called enhanced driver’s license would be accepted at some land and sea crossing to those countries instead of a passport when returning to the United States.

Passports recently were required for Americans even going to Canada, but an enhanced driver’s license would provide the information needed at border crossings.

Exports up

Minnesota exported more manufactured, agricultural and mining products in the year’s first quarter than ever before.

The exports grew 13 percent, setting a record of $4.8 billion.

“Minnesota exports continue to be strong, generating more business for companies and contributing to job growth statewide,” said Commissioner Mark Phillips of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. “Exports to nine of the state’s top 10 markets expanded from a year ago, and sales for most of our products and commodities grew as well.”

Canada remains Minnesota’s largest customer, accounting for $1.3 billion in exports (27 percent of the state’s total) in the quarter