Pressure is mounting on Minnesota's state lawmakers to come up with a budget agreement to avoid any more lost state services.
The new fiscal year began on July 1, but the Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton and his fellow Democratic lawmakers had not reached agreement on how to eliminate a $5 billion deficit. It was the first government shutdown since 2005; that one was not nearly as severe as the current one.
The governor and the head of both state houses met in the governor's office to try to find some common ground. Both sides are far apart on issues like tax increases and spending cuts (a situation eerily reminiscent of the current situation in Washington, D.C.). Meanwhile, a bipartisan committee of business executives and former legislators including former Vice-president Walter Mondale, has formed with the goal of coming up with suggestions on ending the standoff.
As a result of the shutdown, state parks and historical sites, highway rest areas, and many state offices were shut. More than two-thirds of the state's 36,000 state employees have been laid off. The lone exception so far has been the Minnesota Zoo, which reopened after getting court permission to use its own revenues to pay staff salaries.