Lawmaker gets earful along parade route

Sen. Dave Senjem
Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, heard yells of "get back to work" and "settle the budget" along the Fourth of July parade route in the southern Minnesota community of Blooming Prairie on Monday.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

As the state government shutdown continues, Minnesota voters are weighing in on the stalemate — and many are not happy.

At the Fourth of July parade in Blooming Prairie on Monday, some in the crowd vented their frustrations.

Among the bands, classic cars, horses and floats in the parade, there was also one member of the state Legislature — Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester. He's in his third term representing the Republican-leaning district 70 miles south of the Twin Cities.

Senjem walked the parade route in a red flowered shirt, greeting the crowds along the way.

"How's everybody? Good to see you," Senjem said to the people watching the parade.

As he moved down the street, there were a few cheers of support. But far more common were the yells of complaint.

"Go to work," shouted Laurie Heydt of Stewartville.

Heydt was upset that Senjem was in the parade at all. She and others along the parade route thought the Legislature and the governor should have spent the holiday weekend at the State Capitol, hashing out a budget deal.

"It's not a vacation for them, they're getting paid," said Heydt. "They need to go to work."

Tim Bass
Tim Bass of Blooming Prairie watches the Fourth of July parade in his town on Monday. State Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, was one of the politicians who walked in the parade. Bass said the Legislature should have been at work on the holiday trying to settle the budget. He called the state shutdown a "bad deal."
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

As the hour-and-a-half long parade wound from the west side of Blooming Prairie toward downtown and then back to its starting point, there were at least a dozen outbursts from the crowd aimed at the state senator.

Tim Bass of Blooming Prairie joined in the jeering at about the midpoint of the parade.

"Let's get that budget solved, those guys shouldn't even be here," said Bass.

Bass said one of his big concerns with the shutdown is its economic impact, starting with the 22,000 state workers losing paychecks. But many private companies are hurt as well, like road construction companies who contract with the state for business.

"There are other entities that depend on that, and those people are not even counted," said Bass. "Bad deal."

Closed rest stop
This rest area along I-90 in southern Minnesota is closed. The rest stops and many other state services were shut down on July 1 after the state Legislature and the governor failed to reach a budget deal.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

After the parade, Senjem called it a good event, even with the political give and take. He said the Blooming Prairie Fourth of July parade is a place where people speak their minds.

"It's a mixed bag, you expect that," said Senjem. "There's a lot of emotions out there, certainly right now. I completely understand that. Our job is to get it done. I just felt it was important to be here today. You need to hear from the people, in the good days and the bad."

Senjem added that he hasn't changed his mind on one of the main sticking points in the budget standoff, Gov. Mark Dayton's call for an income tax increase on Minnesota's top earners. And he made no predictions when the stalemate would end.

"I honestly don't have a clue," said Senjem. "I just don't know. I can't peg this one, I can't connect the dots."

That sort of open-ended state shutdown would not be good news for many in the crowd at the Blooming Prairie Fourth of July celebration. Many in the crowd said their blame is bipartisan.

Frey said the shutdown should never have happened.

"They could have talked a lot more," said Frey. "But they get their feelings hurt a little bit, and act like a bunch of little kids."