WASHINGTON, July 5, 2011 -- A bipartisan commission of former lawmakers was appointed today to seek a way around the budget impasse that has shut down the state of Minnesota.
But while the comissioon starts work to find a compromise to get the state's 20,000 employees back to work and reopen state parks, former Minnesota governor and current Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty encouraged Republicans to stand strong and today launched a new campaign ad touting his role as governor in 2005's 10-day stalemate.
"Minnesota government shutdown. Why? Because Tim Pawlenty would not accept Democrats' massive tax and spending demands. Result: Pawlenty won," the ad boasts.
That shutdown was six years ago, but once again the North Star State's government has come to a screeching halt. As the current impasse entered its fifth day today, some of the state's leading politicians on both sides of the aisle weighed in on the problem.
While Pawlenty bragged about his work in the 2005 impasse and suggested the current stoppage is good for the state, former Vice President Walter Mondale -- a Democrat -- and former governor Arne Carlson -- a Republican -- started a committee to find a solution by week's end. The bipartisan panel will come up with "a third approach," Carlson told reporters, according to Bloomberg News.
In the state capital of St. Paul, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton was set to meet with the Republican leaders of Minnesota's GOP-controlled legislature. At issue is how to deal with the state's projected $5 billion deficit over the next two years. To reduce the shortfall, one of Dayton's proposals involves raising taxes on the rich, a move Republicans have opposed.
"I've said all along that I'm willing to look for other sources of revenue," Dayton told Minnesota Public Radio's "Morning Edition" today. "The reality is that they're against any source of tax revenue."
Dayton demanded that Republicans drop their focus on policies involving abortion and stem cell research and instead focus on "the fiscal side of things."
Amid all the partisan bickering, the shutdown continues -- with serious consequences for the Midwestern state. More than 20,000 state employees are now without work. State parks are shuttered. Construction projects paused. Highway rest areas are closed.
"This is a terrible situation," Dayton said.
But thus far there has been little suggestion that either side will budge on the budget fight. Last Thursday, as the shutdown was set to start at midnight, Pawlenty urged his fellow Republicans to "stand strong."
"We have to get government spending under control. The Democrats won't do it. I applaud the Republicans for standing strong and encourage them to keep standing strong," he said in a brief press conference.
The deadlock in Minnesota could be a preview of things to come in Washington. Lawmakers in the nation's capital are currently divided on how to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, while at the same time reaching an agreement to reduce the country's deficits going forward.
Democrats believe higher taxes on wealthy Americans and oil companies could help. Republicans disagree. Two weeks ago talks between Vice President Biden and Congressional leaders broke down.
It is only the latest funding fight for the federal government. Lawmakers came within hours of shutting down the government this spring, due to a lengthy heated debate over how to fund federal operations for the rest of the fiscal year. While they ultimately struck an 11th-hour deal to continue operations, such an agreement has thus far evaded Minnesota's politicians.