Minnesota shut down comes to an end, budget issues remain

After a budget fight that lasted until almost 4am this morning, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a new budget bill that will allow the state government to reopen. The Minnesota government has been closed for almost three weeks as the Republican dominated state legislature fought with Governor Dayton over a variety of budget issues. The state now faces a backlog of licensing, administrative tasks and clean up to public spaces after the extended closure.

The state government is asking Minnesotans to be patient as the state resumes its activities including processing licenses and tax stamps for many businesses that have been forced to halt sales of lottery, alcohol and tobacco in the wake of the shut down. Public areas including parks and rest stops will also be reopened but only after they’ve been cleaned. Over 20,000 state workers will also be returning to work after three weeks of being laid off. These workers will be returning to a significant backlog of applications,permit requests and job functions that have also been suspended as part of the shut down.

The state was also hit with summer storms throughout the shutdown causing damage to some of the closed rest areas and the nearly 100 active construction projects which were put on hold. State officials are unsure how long it will take before all of these areas are operational.

Even though the budget measure passed, both sides remain unhappy with it and it is not expected to raise the state’s credit rating. Minnesota was downgraded from AAA to AA+ by credit ratings agencies due to the state’s reliance on one-time funding sources like stimulus grants rather than working to increase revenue.

The new agreement shifts some spending into the next budget cycle and relies on money from a state tobacco settlement to cover other gaps. Critics of the measure say that simply shifting spending and pulling more from one-time funding fails to solve the larger revenue and budget issues the state currently faces. The Governor has also said he is not happy with the measure noting that without a revenue increase the state will return to the same debates next year.

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