Minnesota Looks to End State Park Shutdown
Minnesota’s three top budget negotiators walked from the governor’s office Thursday (July 14) evening to announce a state budget deal frowning like their best friend just died.
The Duluth Tribune reported that in a way, each had lost a political friend: Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton gave up his long-held demand that the richest Minnesotans pay higher taxes; Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch gave up their party’s strongly held stance of keeping state spending to no more than $34 billion in the next two years.
But in giving up what they fought for all year, they reached a framework of a budget deal that could end a shutdown entering its 15th day today.
“It’s my understanding that we have an agreement,” Dayton said Thursday evening after meeting three hours with Koch and Zellers.
Koch, R-Buffalo, called it a “framework” of a deal.
It appeared the deal was fragile, with the trio willing to speak about few details. Dayton said negotiators and others involved in the state’s budget will work around the clock so it can be passed within days. A Thursday night e-mail to Senate Democrats said they should expect a special session to start Monday or Tuesday.
Once legislators pass new budget bills, and Dayton signs them, 22,000 state workers can return to work, 98 road construction projects can resume, state parks can reopen, fishing licenses can be sold and Minnesotans can receive hundreds of state services they need or want.
Audrey Butts, park manager at Gooseberry Falls State Park near Two Harbors, welcomed the news.
“I’m completely happy for our employees and the public,” Butts said. “We’ll be able to open our doors and get back to normal.”
Many people have been visiting Gooseberry, the most-visited park on Minnesota’s North Shore, even though it was closed during the past 14 days of the government shutdown.
The shutdown has caused some parking issues along Minnesota Highway 61 near Gooseberry Falls, and some litter problems in the park.
Reopening Minnesota’s 74 state parks and recreation areas will be a process.
Eunice Luedtke, park manager at Jay Cooke State Park near Duluth, said it would take at least two days to get the park operational after the shutdown ends. Water lines were shut down and must be flushed.
Hot water heaters must be fired up again. Grounds must be mowed after a two-week layoff.
“I’m excited we can get back to work and open the parks to the public so they can enjoy the outdoors,” Luedtke said.
It could take several days for state government to ramp back up to full speed even after lawmakers pass specific agency budgets and the governor signs them into law, according to the Minnesota Management and Budget office website.
Each state agency will determine how they will notify employees of a recall to work after the shutdown ends. Then, under a pre-arranged agreement between the state and state employee unions before the shutdown hit, employees have no more than three days to get back to work.