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Staving Off Another State Shutdown: GOP lawmakers Announce New Legislation

Three senators plan to unveil a bill in 2012 that would spare Minnesotans from the shutdown blues.

A group of Republican lawmakers today announced a plan that would effectively end state government shutdowns.

Under the proposal, if a budget agreement isn’t reached by the end of the legislative session, funding for state services would continue at previous levels.

However, some of their colleagues believes a repeat of the 2011 shutdown is not in the cards — at least not in the next two years. In an interview on Wednesday, Burnsville Rep. Pam Myhra said this year all involved learned a lesson, albeit the hard way.

Myhra was not asked about this specific proposal, but when asked if she expected another shutdown in 2013, Myhra said: "One thing I've heard is that the negotiation process (over the last few days) was a positive experience, with a good discussion and lots of give and take. I think the shutdown was a shame — unfortunate and unnecessary," Myhra said. "But hopefully this has been a good learning experience that will encourage us to work it out earlier, rather than to push it out and try to make a statement. I don't think it would happen again. It's been very painful for a lot of people." 

Nevertheless, such legislation is not unheard of. Twelve other states have similar laws on the books, said Sen. Ted Lillie, who was joined by Sen. Paul Gazelka, Sen. Ted Daley and other lawmakers during a press conference at the Capitol.

The plan—similar to a bill Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon proposed as a state senator in 2006—has several permutations, including reverting state spending to 80-100 percent of previous levels or enacting the measure through a constitutional amendment.

The longest government shutdown in Minnesota history ended Wednesday when Gov. Mark Dayton signed a series of budget bills.

“It is time to do something like this,” Lillie said.

The message from lawmakers was clear.

“No more Minnesota shutdowns,” Daley said several times.

The concern is that the measure could create an environment in which there is no incentive to reach a budget deal, especially for legislators opposed to increased spending.

Lillie acknowledged that possibility, but maintained that it would be better than closing state parks, putting 22,000 state employees out of work and disrupting construction projects throughout Minnesota.

“I don’t see this as an incentive not to negotiate,” he said, adding later: “We’re trying to take the politics out of this.”

The plan has not been presented to DFL leaders or the governor. The proposal would likely be presented early during the 2012 legislative session.

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