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Minnesota’s reputation taking a hit with government shutdown

The Good Life in Minnesota
Minnesota Historical Society

In the eyes of the world, Minnesota’s government has come a long way since 1973, when Time magazine profiled Minnesota as the “A State that Works.”

Back then, politics was considered an “honorable profession,” and civic engagement was the key to the growth of the state’s arts and culture and sports.

And — with Gov. Wendell Anderson on the cover wearing a blue plaid shirt over a red turtleneck and smiling as he displayed a northern — the story applauded a state where voters “were willing to elect a man who promised to raise some of their taxes in return for larger overall gains.”

In 2010, the state elected another governor who advocated tax increases for what he believed was the greater good. But instead of national acclaim and colorful photo ops, Minnesota is now becoming known around the country and around the world as the state that doesn’t work.

The New York Times, writing about the state’s now week-old government shutdown, editorializes that anti-tax extremists are trying to hijack the state:

“[E]ssential services for the poor, like food pantries and child care subsidies, have evaporated. Many parents say they may have to quit their jobs if state-subsidized child care does not resume quickly. The shutdown will cost the state money since many of the 22,000 laid-off workers will receive unemployment benefits and health insurance, while the treasury is unable to collect on tax audits, lottery tickets and park fees.”

Some stories dispel the Minnesota Nice image, with folks hollering at politicians in public: ran a wire story about the experience of state Sen. Ted Daley, a Republican, in Eagan’s Fourth of July parade:

“[S]ome of his constituents wondered loudly why he wasn’t at the state Capitol 10 miles to the north trying to end the state government shutdown that was in its fourth day. ‘Go get your job done!’ shouted Bill Egan, a 52-year-old salesman who said he is disgusted by the standoff between Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and the Republicans who control the Legislature.

National Public Radio, too, noted that Minnesotans are quickly becoming fed up with the politicking: “Frustrated residents lined parade routes and shouted at waving politicians, telling them to ‘get back to work.’ “

• Political cartoonists also are taking their shots: Joe Heller in the Green Bay Gazette Press Gazette called us the “Land of 10,000 Snakes.” And Dave Granlund of shows Gov. Dayton in a boat, trying to start the state’s budget engine before it goes over the falls.

Political cartoon detail
Political cartoon detail

In the Washington Post on Tuesday, the implication was: Bad Government in Minnesota. With the headline “Minnesota shutdown drags on,” the story said:

“The government shutdown has thrown thousands of state employees out of work with no idea when they might return. Construction projects have been stalled. And millions of dollars in state revenues will likely be lost: Minnesota is losing an estimated $200,000 a day from the closure of state parks alone.”

Yahoo News used the headline: “Some noticeable casualties after Minn. Shutdown.” And the story had a quote that echoed of political gamesmanship more often seen in Chicago:

“I personally think the Republicans will probably be more damaged than the governor” by the shutdown, said freshman Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls, who toppled an incumbent Democrat in November. “The fact is that we’re all up for re-election again next year, and he’s not up for three years.”

Fox News, too, said: “Minnesota shutdown prompts political blame game..”

But not everyone is buying into damage to Minnesota’s image.

Finance & Commerce found an expert who said the shutdown shouldn’t cause the state any long-term harm when it comes to attracting new businesses:

Christopher Steele, president of the Newton Highlands, Mass.-based CWS Consulting Group, said: “Five years from now, no one is going to remember this,” Steele said, “provided you come out with something useful on this.”

The International Business Times, though, hinted at class warfare in the North Star State: “Minnesota Government Shutdown: Don’t Make (Literally) Millionaires Pay More Taxes.”

The Wall Street Journal, of course, is interested in employment, and in a story headlined “Land of 10,000 Layoffs; The stakes in the Minnesota government shutdown,” notes:

“Minnesota prides itself as the land where liberal governance works, but lately the wheels have come off. The state is broke, and as of July 1 most state services are closed amid a budget stalemate between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Republicans who run the legislature.”

But the Washington Post on Thursday said there’s no way to tell just what the shutdown will cost (which may affect how sullied the state’s reputation is at the end of this).

It’s especially hard, John Pollard, a spokesman for the Minnesota Management and Budget Office, told The Fix blog, because: “Several of each agencies staff that would help calculate these costs are currently laid off.”

But it does say: “While the details are fuzzy, one thing is clear. Even with government barely functioning, the shutdown will almost definitely cost Minnesota more than it saves.”

And we have to wonder about the long-term cost to our reputation.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Deb Reed on 07/08/2011 - 12:32 pm.

    More media and more propraganda! I find this laughable!
    No state is clear of trouble as long as the USA is in trouble. What this is really going to take is for Republicans to come to the bargaining table ready to get real!!! They are holding citizens hostage and WE WILL NOT FORGET!!! Can you say recall?
    Political people need to get real by showing us their sacifice and their pay cuts and benefit cuts, then perhaps we can take them seriously and understand they are not the jokes they seem!

  2. Submitted by Tim Larkin on 07/08/2011 - 12:52 pm.


    2 questions:

    a. aren’t you willing to acknowledge the anomaly that Dayton’s election represents? In a historic (40+ years) turnover in the Mn House and Senate, Dayton wins by less than 3% in a 3 way race where the “moderate Republican” sipons off 11%. Isn’t it obvious that this is why Dayton was elected?

    b. are you suggesting that all spending is equivalent to spending on the infirm, elderly and disabled? Isn’t some spending wasteful, duplicative or beyond the scope of state government? Are you suggesting that every dollar spent by state govt is beyond scrutiny?

    Just looking for some intellectual honesty.

  3. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 07/08/2011 - 01:12 pm.

    Over the last twelve years I have developed an informal network of media people from around the US and the world.

    Nothing major. I followed a local high profile case that started a dozen years ago. My contacts contact me when there is some Minnesota based story. I have lived in the Twin Cities for more than a decade.

    I try top get their perspective on Minnesota things. Skype and Majicjack free internet long-distance phones are a big plus. You can pick up a lot by talking to someone, even on the phone.

    I try to remain objective and state that I tend to vote conservative but am not politically active. They tend to remember Jessie Ventura and Al Franken being elected. (suffice it to say they wonder if these two are our “wieners” . Most are vaugely aware of Mark Dayton from his Senate “panic” but few make the connection between Mark Dayton and Target Stores (#2 after Walmart).

    I provide more conservative resources like and (I also mention Basically I say that the shutdown will have minimal affect on most middle-class Minnesotans. I point out that Minnesota has the highest percentage spending on “welfare” in the USA.

    I basically opine that our generous welfare benefits and lack of any residency time requirements do not make for “a better Minnesota”.

    I also note that the shutdown seems to have the greatest negative effect on the democrats prime constituencies. For a bit of wry humor I actually called my favorite liquors store and they said they have a state licence for six months.

    I don’t know what effect this will have but I tend to “spice” my email replies with arcane examples and they sometimes are used. (IE:I own and live in a Sears Catalog house, I haven’t worked that into this.

    Time will tell if my mischief has any real effect. In the meantime, here is my one write up on a “time bomb” if the shutdown drags on.


    The Revenue Department would keep a skeleton crew – 40 of its 1,400 employees – on the job to collect taxes, but it wouldn’t send taxpayer refunds, including about $90 million scheduled to be paid to 70,000 renters next month.”

    Note: The Circuit-breaker checks for renters are supposed to be out by mid August and are used by many renters for “back to school” supplies. (Homeowner credits go out in mid-October). The renter payments are based on property taxes paid as part of rent and income. More renters than homeowners tend to be democratic. The payment is largest for lower income renter of housing that is not subsidized. The larger refunds to lower income are more important to them than people with higher income. Market renters with lower incomes (IE: tend to vote democratic) are at times LITERALLY banking on this mid August money.

    The payments to homeowners is scheduled for mid October. The logic here is that it can be used to pay second half-property taxes due 10-17-11. If a late penalty is applied because people depended on the circuit breaker homestead refund here is the penalty schedule.

    Basically renters will be affected worse than homeowners by payment delays. The renters are more likely to be vote democratic.

  4. Submitted by Julie Horbach on 07/08/2011 - 03:19 pm.

    You people are real quick to blame this mess on the governor who got us in this big mes was t paw who did not work well with other people and for his last year he was to busy kissing up to McCain when he was running he ended picking Palin he barley would work with other GOP. get the facts straight.

  5. Submitted by Jeff Wilfahrt on 07/08/2011 - 04:37 pm.

    This constant harangue about out of control spending just doesn’t seem justified when you consider MN taxation as a percentage of MN GDP. In fact I think MN is rather normal within the distribution of states.

    Government isn’t the enemy, it is our common ally. Personally I take pride in our state and government services and am willing to pay more… hell, after 8 years of Pawlenty “no new taxes” I am paying more in property taxes.

    We’ve been at this lower tax rate for at least ten years with no results. Maybe we should try the alternate and actually increase revenue.

    As the old saw goes, banging your head against the wall and expecting a different outcome is a sign of insanity.

    Go DAYTON! Improve our mutual lot.

    Jeff Wilfahrt, Rosemount, MN

  6. Submitted by will lynott on 07/08/2011 - 04:51 pm.

    #2, if it’s intellectual honesty you want, how about acknowledging that Bush got elected the same way, putting aside for a minute the roles played by the Florida and Ohio secretaries of state, and the supreme court? While you’re at it, you could admit the TP got elected that way. Then, you can explain why anyone should care about these things now. They’re history. They all got elected. What’s your point?

    Just looking for a little intellectual honesty.

    bikemiles #3, you’ve posted this tripe in a lot of places over the last few weeks, as if you desperately want to believe it to be cosmically relevant and apparently hoping someone, anyone, will affirm it as revealed truth. Unfortunately, the only thing that has happened is that, while it was meaningless from the beginiing, it has now additionally gotten pretty old and crusty. Keep it up if you want, but you should know by now that no one’s listening.

  7. Submitted by Tim Larkin on 07/08/2011 - 10:38 pm.

    #6, the reason the comment about Dayton being elected courtesy of Horner is relevant is that it negates the point being asserted that somehow Dayton was elected after promising to raise taxes on millionaires and therefore has a mandate. If you agree that he was elected courtesy of Horner, well and good. Doesn’t it logically follow that his “mandate” is non-existent?

  8. Submitted by Jolene Mattson on 07/09/2011 - 08:05 am.

    Dayton is doing exactly what he said he would do during his campaign. TAX THE TOP 2% in the State. No surprise. I am one of the renters who counts on my taxes for certain expenses and I was one of the poeple who took my family to the State Parks over the holiday weekend, we walked in, had fun and walked out of the main attractions at theses parks along with thousands of others. The shutdown is definately costing us more than it is worth but I MUST support Dayton in his decision making becuase it is why he was elected.

  9. Submitted by will lynott on 07/09/2011 - 07:35 pm.

    #7, Sure, the same way the Rs have no mandate either. What’s your point? Talking about mandates is nonsense unless someone wins by a really lopsided margin. That hasn’t happened in awhile–maybe LBJ?

    TP had no mandate either. After all, the same voters who gave him his less-than-majority victories also elected solid DFL majorities in the legislature as well. Who had the “mandate” then? Is your answer predictably partisan? Thought so. One could make the point, as some have, that, between Dayton and Horner, 55% of the electorate voted for tax increases to balance the budget. Let’s hear your thoughts on mandates in light of that fact.

    This debate is not about who has the upper hand, much as you want to make it that. This obsession with not only winning but demonizing your opponents to the detriment of good governance is tearing this state and nation apart. You’re not helping.

    Minnesota used to be an exceptional state, and although you may not want to admit it, taxes were higher when that was true. You and your kind seem bent on making us a cold Mississippi. You and I will never agree on that.

  10. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 07/10/2011 - 02:26 am.

    From the Sunday Star Tribune:

    “Minnesotans counting on rebates and refunds from the state are also out of luck. Roughly 70,000 tax refunds totaling $90 million won’t be issued until the two sides strike a deal.”

    Hmm! The numbers match my renters credit numbers. They use the term “rebates”. It’s sure a surprise to me if those expecting the renter’s credit in mid August don’t care if they they get the checks late.

  11. Submitted by will lynott on 07/11/2011 - 03:34 pm.

    #7, the fact that 55% of the voters in the last election voted for raising taxes to control the deficit does seem to me, now that I think about it, to be encroaching on mandate territory. Certainly more support is expressed there than for the Emmer scorched earth approach.

    Not that I care. This is really not something worth arguing about.

    Oh,you were about to acknowledge that shrub and tp also had no mandates, to say nothing of the current legislative majority….

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