Minn. residents have mixed reaction to budget deal

Glad there's no tax increase
Pharmacist and part time muskie fishing guide Brian Truax launches his boat on Lake Bemidji Friday morning July 15, 2011. Truax says he's happy that the potential budget agreement between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican leaders doesn't include a tax hike for the rich.
MPR Photo/Tom Robertson

As negotiators work out details to end Minnesota's state government shutdown, reaction by state residents to the potential deal is decidedly mixed. We sampled the sentiment of people in the Bemidji area.

While lawmakers sweat out the details of the budget agreement, Brian Truax's biggest concern is whether the muskies are biting on Lake Bemidji. The local pharmacist moonlights as a muskie guide.

He launches his boat on Friday morning and prepares to take a customer out for the day. Truax says the shutdown has been frustrating, but he credits Republicans with holding the line on spending.

"We are all broke, and if we do not stop spending like this, we're all screwed," Truax said.

Truax says he's happy DFL Gov. Mark Dayton gave up on his plan to tax the upper 2 percent of earners in the state.

"You can't tax Minnesotans out of this, no matter what tax bracket you think we can tax," said Truax. "To say that you're going to tax the rich is a bunch of crap. It still comes down to all of us paying taxes whenever a politician says that we're going to tax the rich. No matter how you look at it."

A few miles away, Annette McIntyre and her family from Grand Rapids enjoy a few days vacation at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge Resort on Lake Bemidji. McIntyre says she hasn't paid close attention to the budget deal that's taking shape, but she supports the DFL position.

She's happy the governor insisted that social issues like stem cell research and abortion limits were removed from the table. But McIntyre doesn't like the idea that the deal will delay $700 million in payments to school districts to balance the budget.

"I am greatly disappointed in every single politician that I know of."

"The schools have to borrow money to get by until they get that, but they're paying interest on it, and they aren't going to get paid that interest back, probably," said McIntyre. "It's bad for the schools, definitely. And they've been stripped enough over the years."

Some people are angry the government shutdown happened at all. From his front porch in a quiet Bemidji neighborhood, retired Bemidji State University history professor Gerald Schnabel says the shutdown was all political posturing. He says the two sides could have reached the same deal without a shutdown.

"I am greatly disappointed in every single politician that I know of," he said. "I have no respect for either Democrats or Republicans and everything in between, because they aren't looking out for the good of the people."

Schabel is also disappointed a tax increase on the very rich isn't part of the deal.

"The top 2 percent should absolutely pay more," he said. "We have got to learn that we are living far, far beyond our means as far as taxes are concerned."

There's still a lot of work left before there's a final budget deal. Gov. Dayton told MPR's Midday he hopes to call a special session for Monday to pass the budget.

State employees who work with the Department of Natural Resources are beginning to think about what it will take to reopen Minnesota's 66 state parks once the deal is done.

Matt Snyder, manager at Itasca State Park, says once he gets the green light to reopen the park, it may take a day or two to prepare for visitors.

Park staff will need to check over roads and trails for downed trees or other health and safety concerns.

From there we would start unlocking buildings, turning the water back on, turning the electrical back on in the campground, getting the restaurant opened back up," said Snyder. "We'd have to order food again, all those kind of things would need to go on."

Snyder says state park campers with reservations for next weekend may be able to follow through with their plans. The DNR is expected to have details on its website regarding every state park, and when they're back in shape and ready for visitors.

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