Friday, September 21, 2018
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No deal; lawmakers give up for the weekend
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Diane Kershaw and her son, Brendan, were with a group protesting the effect of the shutdown on shelters for battered women. Kershaw says the shelter she's staying at is funded by state grants. She says it will close in two weeks if the shutdown continues. (MPR Photo/Mike Mulcahy)
Minnesota's partial state government shutdown will last at least through the holiday weekend. Both the House and the Senate met briefly on Saturday, then went home for the holiday weekend. Despite continuing meetings between legislative leaders and the governor, there is no apparent progress toward resolving the state's budget impasse.

St. Paul, Minn. — Any pressure caused by the first partial budget shutdown in state history wasn't enough to cause movement in the ongoing budget impasse that has prolonged the legislative session. Unable to agree on a measure to temporarily reopen government, most members of the House and Senate left the Capitol for the remainder of the weekend.

Some lawmakers, like Republican Sen. Dave Kleis of St. Cloud, said the arguments over the "lights-on" strategy are pointless.

"The confidence that the public has in this Legislature, which was low probably to begin with, is almost non-existant," he said.

Legislative leaders held closed-door meetings throughout the day Saturday and promised to keep meeting throughout the holiday weekend, but they said there was little progress.

After one meeting Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum suggested the leaders would be better off letting the full House and Senate decide what taxes to raise to pay for education and health care.

"It just seems to me that we need to get to the position of voting and letting members vote on various packages that have been brought forward. Make members accountable one way or another and see how they stand up and down. I think that's a a pretty clear and a pretty straightforward way to do this," he said.

Democrats rejected that idea. House DFL Minority Leader Matt Entenza says they were close to a deal on schools, health care and taxes three days ago, and if Gov. Pawlenty had not gone back to square one after the shutdown, a deal could be reached quickly.

DFL Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson says the sides are about $200 million apart out of a $30 billion budget, and the fact that they're talking is positive.

"I like to think that we are a little bit closer this morning than we have been prior to this time," Johnson said. "But we still don't have a done deal. We simply don't have a budget that both sides of the aisle and the governor can support."

As many lawmakers went home and the leadership continued to disagree, about 20 women and children from domestic abuse shelters stood on the steps of the Capitol holding signs calling for them resolve the crisis.

Diane Kershaw and her son, Brendan, were with the group. Kershaw says the shelter she's staying at is funded by state grants. She says it will close in two weeks if the shutdown continues.

"I used to work for the state for seven years, and there was a strike," she said. "I was on strike for two weeks, but it never came to this. This is the first time I'm in a shelter and homeless. And I literally, just like the rest of us, have no places to go. So we'd be back on the street."

Nine-thousand state workers are also counting on the Legislature and the governor to resolve their differences. They also have the weekend off, but unlike legislators, they don't know when they're coming back to work.

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