Minn. special session called to help end shutdown

July 19, 2011 - 11:15 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called a special legislative session on Tuesday for a vote on a budget deal that would end the state's nearly three-week government shutdown.

The governor scheduled the session to start at 3 p.m., reflecting the urgency felt to end an impasse that disrupted lives and businesses around the state. The shutdown has idled about 22,000 state workers, stopped road projects, closed state parks, suspended many state programs and hindered private businesses statewide.

The shutdown won't end until the GOP-controlled Legislature approves the bills and Dayton, a Democrat, signs them.

Dayton wanted to raise income taxes on top earners, but Republicans refused. The standoff prompted Minnesota's second shutdown in six years and the longest by a state government in a decade.

The deal struck by Dayton and Republican leaders came late last week after Dayton moved to accept an offer the GOP had made just before the shutdown ended. It would raise $1.4 billion in new revenue by delaying aid payments to schools and borrowing against future payments from a settlement with tobacco companies.

The governor had said he would wait to call a special session until he and Republican legislative leaders had agreement on details of nine budget bills and a construction financing package. The proclamation is a signal that Dayton considers the agreement solid.

The Legislature adjourned its regular session May 23.

Passage of the budget deal is not guaranteed. Many Republicans in the Legislature strongly opposed adding any new revenue to the budget. Others were upset that some social issues that had been on the table were removed as one of Dayton's conditions for a deal.

"It's a tough sell for a lot of people," said Sen. Michelle Benson, a first-term Republican from Ham Lake, said before the special session was announced. "I'm looking at what it does structurally going forward. We've gotten a lot of bad one-time fixes that make things worse down the road."