2011 Minnesota state government shutdown

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Sign in the door way of the Minnesota State Office Building, across the street of the Main Capital Building

The 2011 Minnesota state government shutdown was a government shutdown affecting the U.S. state of Minnesota, due to a fiscal dispute between the Governor and the state legislature. The shutdown started at midnight, July 1 and ended after a budget was passed on July 20. The eventual budget agreement started to form after Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party Governor Mark Dayton announced on July 14 that he would "reluctantly" pass the last proposal of the Republican legislative leadership before the shutdown, but with conditions.[1]

Preceding events and issues[edit]

Minnesota State Capitol

Going into the 2010 election, the state government was facing an approximately $5 billion budget shortfall in the coming 2011–2013 biennium, left over from the outgoing administration of Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty. The Republican Party claimed that the budget was based on a previous unrealistic projected increase in spending and pledged to balance the budget without raising taxes. Former Democratic–Farmer–Labor U.S. Senator Mark Dayton campaigned pledging to close the budget deficit by increasing income taxes on the state's highest earners. In the election, the Republicans won control of both houses of the legislature for the first time in decades while Dayton narrowly defeated Republican Tom Emmer with 44% of the vote.[2][3][4] Both Dayton and Republican legislators claimed a popular mandate for their positions.[3][5]

Minnesota's state government can not operate without appropriations under law, as mandated by the Minnesota Constitution. However, state courts have determined that Priority One and Two Critical Services must continue in the event of a shutdown. Services that must remain uninterrupted to avoid a potential immediate threat to public health or safety are considered Priority One. A list of priority services has been compiled and prepared by Minnesota Management and Budget.[6]

The legislature passed budget bills which balanced the budget with significant cuts to social and infrastructure services, rather than raising any taxes.[3] Governor Dayton vetoed nine of the ten budget bills after the regular legislative session had ended. Dayton did not call a special session of the legislature to further address the budget, due to the lack of agreement between him and the Republican legislative leaders Kurt Zellers and Amy Koch. Starting on July 1, the state government had limited legal authority to spend money and many ("non-essential") portions of the state government were closed on midnight on June 30 – July 1, 2011, starting the shutdown.[7]

The shutdown[edit]

Sign in front of the Minnesota Historical Society

The shutdown began on Friday, July 1. At that time, all less urgent state government spending and operations stopped. These included driving tests, child-care assistance, services for the deaf, senior and disability linkage lines, criminal background checks, and road construction. Many government offices, state parks, highway rest areas, the Minnesota Zoo, and sites run by the Minnesota Historical Society, among others, closed.[8] Institutions not part of the state government stayed open, and museums such as the Science Museum of Minnesota reported an increase in visits, as did county parks, and attractions in neighboring states.[9] More important parts of the state government, including policing, state health care, and schools continued. Services that were continued at the start of the shutdown could have amounted to over two-thirds of state spending.[5] The Minnesota Zoo asked to remain open despite the shutdown and on July 2, Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin allowed the Zoo to reopen, which it did on July 3. In a similar case the same day, Gearin ordered the Canterbury Park horse racing track in Shakopee to remain closed.[10] During the first days of the shutdown, many more programs requested that their funding continue, and the courts appointed retired state Supreme Court judge Kathleen Blatz as a special master to hear their pleas.[11]


There were several effects from the state shutdown. Here is a partial list:

  • MillerCoors lost their license to sell 39 brands of beer in Minnesota.[12]
  • The Minnesota State Lottery did not operate during the shutdown, and no tickets were sold. In an average week in 2010, the lottery generated $2.3 million in revenue for the state.[13]
  • Minnesota stopped selling tax stamps for cigarettes, which must be affixed to each pack before sale. The Star Tribune reported that cigarette sales would have had to come to a halt by mid-August, unless more tax stamps were issued.[14]
  • The state stopped issuing liquor purchasing cards, which businesses need in order to purchase liquor from wholesalers. Many stores, bars, and restaurants renewed their liquor purchasing cards before the shutdown. However, the purchasing cards for approximately three hundred establishments expired on the first day of the shutdown, July 1. Liquor purchasing cards would have continued to expire on the first day of each month.[14]
  • In an arson case at the former home of Governor Dayton near Lake Harriet, police were "investigating the possibility that someone [was] upset over last week's shutdown".[15]
  • Services for state parks stopped. An official for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources told the Pioneer Press that visitors were relieving themselves on the trails in Gooseberry Falls State Park, as the restrooms are closed, and that uncollected garbage has attracted bears in Crow Wing State Park.[16]
  • Vandalism occurred at the Afton State Park where the main office was "ransacked" and a group of twelve "ripped off shingles and pieces of deck for firewood, burned additional furniture and wrote messages bragging about breaking in for free".[17]

Budget agreement[edit]

Dayton signing the budget legislation that ended the shutdown on July 20

From the first day of the shutdown on July 1, until July 14, there were no announced talks between the two sides.[clarification needed][citation needed] On July 4, Republican lawmakers affirmed their commitment to not agree to a budget of over $34 billion.[3]

The government shutdown ended after Governor Dayton announced he would accept the last Republican offer before the shutdown, with certain conditions.[1][18][19]

The Republican offer relied on a shift in K-12 school aid payments from 70/30 to 60/40, and issuing tobacco bonds to cover the remaining gap. Other provisions included increasing the per-student formula by $50 per year to cover additional borrowing costs, adding $10 million more to the University of Minnesota to equalize Minnesota State Colleges and Universities cuts, and restoring funding to the Department of Human Rights and Trade Office.[1] Documents released after June 30 stated that the Republican leadership included anti-abortion agenda, voting ID, and related issues during the budget negotiations.[20]

Dayton's conditions were that policy measures on matters such as abortion be dropped from the budget, 15 percent across the board reductions to state employees in all agencies be dropped,[21] and a $500 million infrastructure construction bonding bill.

On July 20, the legislature passed the budget bills, which were signed the same day by the governor.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Goldberg, Jeff; Keller, Bill; Lyden, Tom; Durkin, Mike (July 14, 2011). "Gov. Dayton Agrees to Republican Budget to End Minnesota Shutdown". MyFox Twin Cities. Retrieved July 14, 2011. 
  2. ^ Helgeson, Baird (July 28, 2011). "In Minnesota, budget fight fed the feud". Star Tribune. Retrieved August 11, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Roper, Eric (July 4, 2011). "Time apart hasn't lessened the rigid divide". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  4. ^ Post, Tim (November 3, 2010). "Republicans sweep into power in Minn. House, Senate". MPR News. Minnesota Public Radio. 
  5. ^ a b "Shutdown in Minnesota: A sign of things to come?". The Economist. July 7, 2011. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Contingency Planning Home". BeReadyMN. Minnesota Management and Budget. Retrieved July 11, 2011. [dead link]
  7. ^ Dayton, Mark (2011). "Gov. Mark Dayton's shutdown announcement". MinnPost. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  8. ^ "What's open, what's closed: your guide to the state shutdown". Star Tribune. July 12, 2011. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. 
  9. ^ Levy, Paul; Strickler, Jeff (July 3, 2011). "The state shuts down, but for some, business is up". Star Tribune. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  10. ^ Von Sternberg, Bob (July 3, 2011). "Judge: Zoo can open, but no horse races". Star Tribune. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  11. ^ Kaszuba, Mike (December 10, 2011). "As state shutdown begins, so do the pleas for assistance". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on December 10, 2011. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  12. ^ McNaney, Bob (July 12, 2011). "Shutdown Puts Beer Sales on Ice in Minnesota". KSTC-TV, Channel 45. Retrieved July 13, 2011. 
  13. ^ Dunbar, Elizabeth. "List of the potential costs of a shutdown". MPR News. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved July 11, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Roper, Eric (July 12, 2011). "One by one, bars get tapped out". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  15. ^ McKinney, Matt (July 6, 2011). "3 fires set at former Dayton home in south Minneapolis". Star Tribune. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  16. ^ Orrick, Dave (July 6, 2011). "With restrooms closed by shutdown, problems pile up at Minnesota state parks". The Pioneer Press. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  17. ^ Beno, Leah (July 6, 2011). "Afton State Park Vandalized During Shutdown". MyFox Twin Cities. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Minnesota's Government Shutdown Comes To An End". NPR. July 20, 2011. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved July 29, 2011. 
  19. ^ Davey, Monica (July 14, 2011). "Deal Is Made for Ending Shutdown in Minnesota". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ "Leaked Republican negotiating position". Scribd. 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  21. ^ Helgeson, Baird (July 14, 2011). "Dayton, GOP leaders have reached a deal to end government shutdown". Star Tribune.