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Thursday
Jul212011

Minnesota Government Open Again for Business

DC Productions/Thinkstock(ST. PAUL, Minn.) -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a budget plan Wednesday, ending the country’s longest state shutdown in a decade.

The approval came after a final legislative session that dragged on late into the night.

Minnesota closed all its state parks, suspended its lottery system, blockaded highway rest stops, suspended Department of Motor Vehicles operations, shut down approximately 100 road construction projects, closed state offices and laid off some 22,000 state workers on July 1 after Republican and Democratic lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a new two-year budget.

The dispute in Minnesota mirrored the battle being waged in Washington over debt ceiling legislation.  Republicans sought significant spending cuts to erase a $5 billion deficit while the Democrats, including Gov. Dayton, sought to close the shortfall by raising taxes for the state’s wealthiest individuals.

In the end, a compromise was reached that calls for a budget of $35.7 billion over the next two years.  It’s more than state Republicans wanted, but many GOP lawmakers praised the final plan because it doesn't raise any taxes.

To come up with the last $1.4 billion of the spending plan, the state plans to borrow some $640 million against future payments from a legal settlement with the tobacco industry and also delay $700 million in state aid payments to local school districts.  Many members of both parties criticized the compromise, saying it simply pushes Minnesota’s financial problems into the future.

Gov. Dayton said he was “not entirely happy” with the deal, but did acknowledge it “gets Minnesota back to work.”

Officials estimate it may take several weeks for state agencies to clear up backlogs of paperwork and get current on business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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