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State shutdown a shame to both parties

Since when has compromise become a dirty word?

And since when have deadlines failed to spur action for getting work finished?

Apparently, the answers are since the Minnesota State Legislature opened the 2011 session.

With the midnight June 30 deadline lapsed, legislators have caused the government to shut down.

The shutdown put a halt to non-emergency road construction and closed the state zoo and the Capitol. More than 40 state boards and agencies went dark, though critical functions such as state troopers, prison guards, the courts and disaster responses will continue.

State parks are closed, interrupting family vacations and tourism. But closed campgrounds and offices are just small parts of the distress the shutdown has caused. The blind are losing reading services. A help line for the elderly has gone silent. And poor families are scrambling after the state stopped child care subsidies.

Minnesota's unemployment statistics also took a jump when 22,000 state workers were laid off Friday.

Gov. Mark Dayton is determined to raise revenue to fulfill the Democratic policy to support poor and vulnerable Minnesotans. To do so, he would raise incomes taxes on the wealthiest residents. He offered yet another compromise at the last minute -- the hike would affect not the richest 2 percent as he previously proposed, but Minnesota's approximately 7,700 millionaires.

The majority Republican legislators have not budged one whit on their opposition to any tax increases. They say $34 billion is the largest biennial budget in Minnesota's history. "Live within our means" is their rallying cry. They also point out that they ran their successful campaigns on that motto.

Republicans also note that they have agreed to the governor's K-12 school and public safety allocations, which amount about half of state expenditures. However, those concessions leave the remaining services cut even deeper than predicted.

With no immediate end in sight to a dispute over taxes and spending, political leaders spent Friday blaming each other for their failure to pass a budget that solves the state's $5 billion deficit.

Minnesota is the only state to have its government shut down this year, even though nearly all states have severe budget problems, and some have divided governments.

In whatever manner the impasse is solved -- sooner rather than later -- the Democrats and Republicans have accomplished their basic partisan desires with the blame game. They have made both of their houses look bad. -- Bemidji Pioneer