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Minnesotans blame both parties for shutdown
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Eagan resident Carla Velez of Eagan didn't know anyone directly affected by the shutdown and could not think of a single way the shutdown affected her. Still, the shutdown made her feel powerless. (MPR Photo/Bianca Toness)
DFL Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson and Gov. Tim Pawlenty flew around the state yesterday offering Minnesotans their assessment of the legislative session. They had a lot of explaining to do since Minnesotans are still complaining about the state government shutdown, which put about nine thousand state employees out of work and halted some government services for eight days.

St. Paul, Minn. — When asked about the government shutdown, people use words like crazy, childish, and inconsiderate. For St. Paul convenience store owner Charlie Rose, the lawmakers who dragged out the dispute over the state budget to the point of a government shutdown are not to be trusted.

Many of Rose's customers are state employees, so his business suffered when they didn't go to work for several days. He thinks both parties should be held accountable, just as employees of a business would be.

"You have to blame them because they really should be getting this done in a normal session," he said. "If this was in a normal business, and somebody wasn't getting in that kind of period of time, they had a project that was due, they had a deadline and they pushed it out and it cost the company all that money. They'd lose their jobs. Hopefully the voters will remember that next year, because basically that's what should happen to these people."

Rose is friendly with many of with his customers and knows that many of them went without work.

But Carla Velez of Eagan didn't know anyone directly affected by the shutdown. As she pushed a shopping cart filled with her groceries to her car in the parking lot of an Eagan shopping center, she could not think of a single way the shutdown affected her. Still, it made her feel powerless and she believes that politicians were playing a game at the expense of state employees.

"You know, you kind of sympathize with the people that work in the government," she said. "The kids are on vacation. They have certain plans or certain things. They have to take their vacation time. If they didn't have any they just lost their money. I certainly wouldn't like that to happen to me."

Velez says she blames both sides for the shutdown and thinks the problem is partisan politics. She also blames herself a little for not voting last time, or paying enough attention to state government until there was a crisis. She says next time she'll vote and she'll definitely remember the shutdown. Judy Lentz of Danube, in west central Minnesota, says she won't forget either.

"I am very disgusted with everybody up there," she said. "I think we need a good housecleaning."

Lentz said as much in a letter to the West Central Tribune, the hometown paper of Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson. She says she's voted for Johnson in the past but probably won't again. She blames power struggles between people who've been in office for too long.

"I think they get too set in their ways," she said. "I think there needs to be restrictions on how long these people are in office."

Lentz says party affiliations won't matter to her much in the next election, she will vote based on the candidate's record.

Political analyst Larry Jacobs from the University of Minnesota predicts voters will remember the shutdown, but he worries it may actually discourage Minnesotans from voting. He says frustration among those who do vote could be the recipe for a big shakeup in the next election.

"Now the question is will there be candidates that tap into this reservoire of resentment and disaffection," Jacobs said. "And I think there well could be."

Jacobs says incumbents could see challenges from within their party, but may also face third-party opponents.

"We may also see another push by third-party candidates. We've seen over the last few elections that third-party candidates in Minnesota state house races have been doing fairly well. And I see no reason why this debacle won't fuel that further," he said.

As for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and how this will affect his career, Jacobs predicts the shutdown and Pawlenty's cigarette tax proposal won't hurt his campaign for reelection, but the combination may kill his chances for national office.