Editorial: No state shutdown hereThere’s no doubt Wisconsin has had its problems and bad press lately, what with bickering in the legislature and squabbling in the Supreme Court chambers. But we can all look grimly toward the west and sigh, “At least we’re not in Minnesota.”
There’s no doubt Wisconsin has had its problems and bad press lately, what with bickering in the legislature and squabbling in the Supreme Court chambers. But we can all look grimly toward the west and sigh, “At least we’re not in Minnesota.”
Planning a summer camping trip to one of the many state parks in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Sorry, they’re closed.
Want just a short break at a wayside on a long hot trip through Minnesota? Closed.
This summer it can be tough to be a Minnesotan.
Just turned 16 and want to take your driver’s test? Sorry, closed.
The highway you drive to work slated for repair? It’ll have to wait.
Been laid off by a private company and looking for a job? State-run job research centers are closed too.
Are you one of 22,000 Minnesota state employees who’ve grown accustomed to a regular income? Tough luck. You can apply for unemployment benefits online, but you have to wait a week for benefits to start. In another week or so when the money comes, it’ll be roughly half your gross weekly income.
Just finished college and hoping for your first teaching job? New teachers can’t get their licenses and the 20 percent of Minnesota teachers who need to renew their teaching licenses can’t either.
On July 1, most Minnesota state government functions were closed after Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders failed to agree on a new two-year budget.
As the shutdown entered its third week, it looked like there was some hope on the horizon. In fact, Minnesota media Thursday was reporting a state budget deal was near.
However, the sides had been about $1.4 billion and numerous policy issues apart. The legislature had passed a $34 billion budget with no tax increases, but Gov. Dayton vetoed it.
At first glance, you’d think the state would be saving money, but some analysts say the shutdown will have cost the government millions in lost productivity, delays and financial penalties. Not to mention taxpayer aggravation.
Don’t think we’re being smug when we on the east side of the river grin and say, “It couldn’t happen here.” Because of a Wisconsin law adopted decades ago, even obstinate politicians can’t shut down our state government.
We may be slow to pay our debts to our neighbors (think reciprocity), and we may come to blows over political differences. And we don’t make light of the fact public union workers will have less take-home pay because they’re picking up a bigger share of their health insurance and pensions.
But, by golly, our state offices are open five days most weeks.
Under Wisconsin law, state agencies can keep operating at previous funding levels until a new state budget is signed—no matter how late it comes.
In the legalese of 20.002 of Wisconsin statutes: “If the legislature does not amend or eliminate any existing appropriation on or before July 1 of the odd-numbered years, such existing appropriations provided for the previous fiscal year shall be in effect in the new fiscal year and all subsequent fiscal years until amended or eliminated by the legislature.”
Because state laws are frequently amended, it’s hard to tell who or which session of the legislature should get credit for the wisdom that led to this measure of stability. But we send out a silent “thank you” anyway.
Just to be clear, while the last two Wisconsin budgets were adopted and ready to be implemented on July 1, that’s not always the case. Our state budgets have been adopted late, sometimes months behind schedule.
The last two budgets have taken effect on time only because one party (the Democrats in 2009 and the Republicans this year) controlled both the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature.
In the past, with mixed majorities, budget struggles often continued into the fall. School districts and municipalities were left in limbo trying to work out budgets with little idea of a major part of their revenue: state aid.
No, all is not sunshine and stability in the Badger State. But at least we got one right.