Holiday Weekend First Casualty in Minnesota Budget Battle

With state shut down, parks and campgrounds are closed.

July 3, 2011— -- While many people are looking for a getaway this holiday weekend, campers in Minnesota state parks are instead being told to get lost -- just one of many casualties in the state's budget crisis.

"We're being thrown out," said Tina Johnson, a would-be July Fourth camper who, along with many others, now has to abandon her holiday plans because the state government is shutting down.

Minnesota's Democratic governor and Republican-controlled legislature failed to come to a budget agreement that would fix the state's $5 billion budget gap. As a result, more than 25,000 state employees have been temporarily laid off.

Only critical services such as police patrols, prison operations and services to the elderly will remain in operation.

Camper Cole Guion said the timing for the shutdown could not be worse.

"It doesn't make any sense the idea of this being a place for people to come to and have a good time and for the state to shut it down," Guion said. "It is just ridiculous."

As Minnesota Public Radio reports, the Department of Natural Resources estimates that $12 million could be lost in tourism revenue, especially because of the busy holiday weekend.

The "holiday hit list" is extensive. Not only are parks closed but zoos and the racetrack are shut down as well. Even fishing has been halted as the office that issues mandatory fishing licenses has been closed.

This is not Minnesota's first shutdown. Its last shutdown was in 2005, though that was just a partial shutdown with only 9,000 employees temporarily furloughed. Minnesota becomes the first state to actually shut down much of its government due to a budget crisis and the only state to ever have two shutdowns.

But other states have had to make painful cuts.

New Jersey lawmakers narrowly averted its own shutdown with Governor Chris Christie signing the new bill into law just seven hours before the new fiscal year began, though not without his own adjustments. He line vetoed several Democratic measures, including $50 million in crime fighting initiatives while adding money for other initiatives including $150 million in public school aid.

"The reforms that we sign today not only will save at least $132 billion over the next 30 years for the tax payers of New Jersey but most importantly are an assurance to the hard working men and women in government all across New Jersey," Christie said.

But in Minnesota, residents are feeling the effects of a government unwilling to compromise.

Karen Johnson had planned to spend a week camping with her family. Instead she was ejected from the grounds.

"I think the government has to get its act together and come up with a budget," Johnson said. "It is a matter of not doing their job. I am a nurse. If I don't get my work done in the hospital, I would get fired."