June 30, 2011; Source: Stateline | How long will the Republican legislature and Democratic governor of Minnesota glare over the ramparts at each other waiting for the other to give up? Who knows, but in the meantime, critical public functions are not being carried out as the state has shut down all but a narrow range of those deemed essential (plus some that are tied to contracts with the federal government), as NPQ's editor-in-chief, Ruth McCambridge, described in detail last week.
Is Minnesota a political aberration destined for serial budget stalemates? In a state able to produce the likes of an ultra-conservative governor, now putative presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty; an avatar of a liberal senator in the form of the late Paul Wellstone; and the mercurial political oddity of former wrestler/governor Jesse Ventura, anything is possible. As much as nonprofits around the country might hope and pray that the Minnesota shutdown is simply peculiar, unfortunately there are other states this year veering perilously close to a similar fate. Pew's Stateline website describes a few states whose governmental functions are emperiled by a June 30 budget deadline. By the time you read this there could be shutdowns:
1. Massachusetts: Though apparently unlikely to reach a budget deal, the Bay State may avoid the Minnesota syndrome because Governor Deval Patrick has signed a bill to keep the state operating through July 10.
2. Iowa: We hear of talk of an Iowa shutdown due to the breakdown of comity between the legislature and Republican Governor Terry Branstad concerning property tax reductions, but Stateline seems to think that a shutdown wouldn't happen.
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3. Oregon: Somehow, Oregon's system of passing its budget in piecemeal fashion may help avoid a shutdown.
4. New Jersey: Though not a shutdown candidate per se, New Jersey bears attention because Governor Chris Christie plans to wield a line-item veto to significantly modify the budget passed by the Democratic legislature.
In Minnesota, the governor believes strongly that the budget needs to be strengthened with new tax revenues from taxes placed on the very wealthiest people. The legislature appears to be beholden to the "no new taxes" pledge. Budget politics at the state and federal levels looks like a new kind of disease, a hardening of the categories.—Rick Cohen