California has nothing on Minnesota when it comes to legislators at loggerheads over the state budget.
The state shut down a variety of government services last week, and Governor Mark Dayton is now meeting with his colleagues to try to hammer out a deal to close a $5 billion gap in Minnesota’s two-year budget.
The shutdown has had a significant impact on the day-to-day business conducted by government. For example, you can’t take your driver’s test, state parks have been closed, and some 20,000 workers have been furloughed. But as humorist and author Garrison Keillor points out in his “Prairie Home Companion” program, Minnesotans are hard-working and creative, and are not going to let the shutdown ruin their summer.
I recently spent a few days visiting friends in the small city of Winona (population about 28,000). During my short stay I attended three free outdoor concerts, visited the county history museum, toured a refuge center for bald eagles, saw two outstanding plays staged by the Great River Shakespeare Company, enjoyed a performance at the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, and even attended a political rally. None of these events would have been possible without the vision and determination of a community that comes together for events as diverse as the Winona Steamboat Days and the Frozen River Film Festival.
Seeing the sense of civic pride, community cooperation, and a “can-do” attitude was inspiring. There are a number of empty retail buildigs downtown, and the city has suffered the downturn in the economy. So while the underwriters of the events included a few of the local banks and businesses along with Winona State University, the majority of the sponsors and volunteers were individuals, couples, and families.
There are many services we count on our government to provide, and it is my hope that Minnesota and all the states engaged in budget battles are able to find a fair and equitable compromise on their political differences.
Perhaps they should spend a few days in their home districts, and take some of that local “gumption” back to the statehouse.