Editorial: Keep consequences for state shutdown

Published 7:52 am Thursday, March 8, 2012

Daily Herald editorial

Every year, a certain amount of what can best be called goofy stuff goes on at the Minnesota Legislature. This year’s goofiest so far is an effort by a few senators to make a variety of state services “shutdown-proof.” The legislation, a reaction to last year’s state government shut down, is basically a plan for failure and certainly not in the best traditions of Minnesota government.

When Republicans and Democrats clashed last spring over how to fund government operations, the result was a shutdown of all but essential state government services. It was messy, inconvenient and extraordinarily embarrassing for the lawmakers who precipitated the situation when they couldn’t get their budget work done. This year, some apparently believe that it would be at least a partial solution to the problem if it was against state law to shut down campgrounds, the zoo and other state operations. In other words, a shutdown would not be a shutdown.

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While that may sound good on the surface, the reality is that if these bills became laws they would remove one of the very few things that seems to get the Legislature and governor motivated to do their budget work: The fear that a shutdown would disrupt government. The proposed changes would remove pressure from the Legislature which might be nice for lawmakers, but hardly seems to be in the interests of most Minnesotans.

As it stands, legislators have a months-long session each year during which they can and should be developing the state’s next budget, not making it easier to spend even more time on the process and, perhaps, simply not get budgets done at all. If ever there was legislation that needed to be defeated, it was the bills that would remove the consequences of a government shutdown.