'End this damn thing': Minnesota leaders say federal shutdown is costing state tens of millions

The state is covering some of the federal funding that's been stopped as a result of the shutdown.
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Tim Walz and Kurt Daudt

A bipartisan collection of Minnesota's political and faith leaders called for an end to the federal shutdown that they say is putting a strain on state finances.

Governor Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt stood together during a Tuesday morning press conference at the Capitol calling for an end to the gridlock in Washington.

The shutdown of parts of the federal government has entered its 25th day, the longest in history, and is now taking a significant toll on Minnesota finances.

Minnesota Budget Commissioner Myron Frans says that the state has so far paid tens of millions of dollars, potentially as much as $100 million, to cover the shortfall in federal funding over the past month, and there is concern about when the state will be reimbursed by the government.

This includes covering the salaries of around 3,000 state workers who are paid either partially or fully from federal grants, while more than 1,000 furloughed federal workers have applied for unemployment benefits in Minnesota as of this week.

Gov. Tim Walz was careful not to assign blame to one particular side for the shutdown, but had a message for Washington: "End this damn thing."

The impasse in Washington comes as President Donald Trump demands that any bill to re-open the government must contain $5.7 billion to fund a wall between America and Mexico, with Democrats preferring to offer a lower amount for border security purposes.

Governor's plan if the shutdown continues

Gov. Walz has instructed the state's Management and Budget Department to explore how the state can cover vital services in the event federal money dries up, such as Medicaid, veterans healthcare, and highways.

This also includes the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the latest payment for which is being released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week, but will have to last until the end of February.

But Walz warned it may be beyond the ability of the state to assume the responsibility for the pay and benefits of Transportation Security Administration officers at MSP Airport, or corrections workers at the federal prison in Rochester.

Arguably the hardest-hit by the shutdown have been Minnesota's tribal communities, which have experienced "immediate budget cuts to tribal government and to Indian Health Service offices," according to the governor's office, with health workers among those furloughed during the shutdown.

The state will reach out to tribal communities to see if they can assist in any way.

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"The dysfunction in Washington must be met with deliberate and thoughtful leadership in Minnesota," Gov. Walz said. "Our plan will help mitigate the negative effects of the shutdown on communities across our state and protect the critical services Minnesotans need to support their families. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will."

Attorney General Ellison has said he will consider going to court to ensure Minnesota is reimbursed for the money it spends to cover the shortfall in federal funding.

Rep. Daudt also called on national lawmakers to find a solution, saying that "doing the right thing isn't partisan," according to the Minnesota News Network.

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