When Karl Marx wrote about 'the state withering away,' I don't think he had Minnesota in mind. The looming shutdown, due to a budget dispute between the Republican legislature and the Democratic governor, threatens the lives, safety, jobs and health of millions of residents. It also has ruined many vacation plans this holiday weekend.
The most disturbing aspect of the shutdown is that public safety and the legal system are compromised. The court system is shut down, and I am told that cases were being hustled through the courts before the deadline. I have no information about how the state is handling the accused who were awaiting bail proceedings when the doors clanged shut.
I have also learned that the plan for a state shutdown here in Minnesota includes laying off half the sheriffs and half the prison guards. What, is Minnesota issuing an open invitation to all inmates to bust out of the hoosegow? Sounds like it to me, folks.
So try not to run out of gas or have an accident on a state or interstate highway until the alleged legislators in St. Paul pass a budget --- no state trooper will likely be available to answer a 911 call. Try to avoid driving past any prisons in the state, but if you do, do not --- repeat DO NOT --- pick up any hitchhikers by the road. Especially if they wear stripes or orange.
Food stamp allotments are not being filled during the shutdown, so food banks are likely to be swarmed by the jobless, and by those suffering lengthy recuperation from injuries without benefit of short-term/long-term disability payments.
Try not to buy a car until the budget is passed. You will not be able to register the sale or get a new license plate (ore renew an old one).
Try not to get sick enough to enter a hospital. Everyone who is in a profession that requires a license to practice will have to stay home if the shutdown lingers past their license expiration date. This may also apply to professions other than nursing, such as lawyers, barbers and hairdressers, and the many others who service our medical, legal, personal and business needs.
Many of the private social service organizations, such as SEMCAC, get the bulk of their funding from state grants. So call to check if they have reduced hours before visiting their offices.
Hardest of all is the fact that the state's Workforce Centers (aka job service) is also shut down for the interim. Jobless people without access to computers, phones or counselors may have to suspend their job hunts. And if they were collecting unemployment, that source of funds will also dry up. So they probably will not even be able to travel out of Minnesota to seek employment in a rational, sensible state.
Ironically, Minnesota could have collected $1 million dollars this holiday weekend from the state parks. Disappointed vacationers had to unhook their campers and hope they could get permit fees refunded. Visitors can enter the parks, they just cannot camp overnight. There are no DNR employees, though, to help travelers with emergencies or ensure safety.
State colleges and universities will operate from funds already collected. They run on tuition fees and some state support. If the shutdown lasts longer than their financial reserves, then college students will have to postpone their higher education dreams.
Other state services affected by the shutdown include: rest areas on state highways are closed (this will be a boon to truck stops); hunting and fishing licenses will not be sold; auto licenses cannot be renewed, even online, without state employees to mail out the tabs; driver's license exams and road tests cannot be taken, even at county-run offices; drivers licenses can be renewed at non-state run offices; new auto license plates can be bought at non-state run offices from stockpiles until they run out. Most heartbreaking of all is that if you have a winning lottery ticket, you cannot cash it. No lottery tickets will be sold, validated, or paid at any retailer till a budget is passed.
Personally I think that the blame for the shutdown lays more heavily on the Republican legislature rather than with the governor's office. The GOP wants to steamroller their version of the budget through without compromising on anything. The major sticking point is that the gov (quite rightly, in my opinion) wishes to raise taxes on those with higher incomes. That means raising taxes on couples making over $300,000 per year (and singles making over $180K). I feel, as many others do, that those with incomes in that bracket are the only ones who CAN make up any part of the budget deficit. Making the poor suffer even more than they already have in this recession is simply not the mark of a decent society.
[NOTE: Other proposals floated by the GOP to close the deficit include: cutting health and welfare obligations, eliminating tax breaks, and authorizing a casino. Governor Dayton has said he is open to those ideas except for the first item; he ran on a promise to protect the poor and needy from even more budget cuts. The fact is that the GOP has not floated concrete proposals in a timely fashion over the several months run-up to the shutdown.]