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Shutdown over; Dayton signs budget bills

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Speaker of the House Kurts Zellers, left, talked with GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean as Dean yawned during the special session Tuesday at the Capitol in St. Paul.

ST. PAUL — At last, it's over. The state's longest government shutdown reached 20 days before ending on a note of sheer exhaustion.

icon-interactive.jpg Interactive: State shutdown


It was past 3:30 a.m. today when the Minnesota House and Senate finished wrapping up 12 legislative bills in a 12-hour special session.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who had called the session shortly before noon on Tuesday, signed the bills this morning, authorizing a $35.7 billion biennial budget and putting state government back to work for the first time since June 30.

"It's done; it feels good," said Sen. Dave Senjem, a Rochester Republican. "It's good to get people back to work."

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The first Republican-controlled Legislature in 40 years considered this year's session their opportunity to implement reforms in areas such as Health and Human Services, where a projected 22 percent increase in spending was corralled at just 4.8 percent, and K-12 education, where teacher and principal performance evaluation programs are being implemented.

"This is version 1.0 of government reform you're seeing today," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa. "Next session will be version 2.0."

Democrats were critical of being shut out of the legislative discussions leading up to the special session, and of receiving little lead time to review the bills. The K-12 bill, for example, was made public only an hour before it was voted upon.

"This just isn't the way good government works," said Rep. Kim Norton, a Democrat, in an online post.

Although Republican legislative leaders and Dayton, a Democrat, agreed to the framework of an agreement last week, Republicans were still caucusing to formalize their bill proposals even as the session was running Tuesday. There were sharp differences between party members in some of those caucus meetings, officials said.

Mayo Clinic stands to be a big beneficiary of the $11.2 billion Health and Human Services bill. The bill begins a phase-out of a provider tax, which had cost Mayo an estimated $60 million per year.

In addition, the bill voids an earlier-proposed Medicaid surcharge, which would have cost Mayo an extra $22.5 million per year.

Critics of the HHS bill said it would hurt the quality of rural health care, will cut compensation to licensed child-care providers by 2.5 percent, and will eliminate grants for county programs collecting child support, a federally mandated service. Eliminating the state grants while the mandate still stands will cause property taxes to rise, said Sen. Linda Berglin, a Minneapolis DFLer.

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