‘End this damn thing': Gov. Walz says Minnesota is paying for shutdown

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Gov. Tim Walz is urging President Donald Trump and Congress to end the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history, saying Minnesota taxpayers are shelling out millions of dollars a day to prop up programs and pay salaries during the impasse.

“End this damn thing,” Walz said Tuesday, surrounded by elected officials, faith leaders and activists in his crowded reception room at the state Capitol. “Let’s get a compromise and move on.”

Walz, who gave up his seat in Congress to run a successful campaign for governor in 2018, said this shutdown is different than previous ones because of the stark policy divide between the president and Democrats over funding for a border wall. Asked who he blamed for the impasse, Walz hesitated before assigning more responsibility to President Trump.

Minnesota gets an estimated $1 billion a month from the federal government. During the 25-day partial shutdown, when one-quarter of the federal government isn’t operating, the state has paid up to $100 million and counting to maintain programs and keep some workers on the job, state budget director Myron Frans said. The move has avoided layoffs for 3,000 state workers who normally are paid with federal dollars.

The state can maintain the spending into February and possibly March, Walz said. Starting March 1, the state would need to step in and provide $42 million in monthly payments so 400,000 Minnesotans on food stamps could continue receiving benefits.

Attorney General Keith Ellison left the door open to suing the federal government over reimbursement for Minnesota’s costs.

“We’re prepared to take legal action,” said Ellison.

In a state where all statewide elected officials are Democrats, Walz pointed out that Tuesday’s news conference included a handful of Republican state lawmakers. He gave a cautious answer when asked whether he blamed President Trump or Congress for the shutdown.

“When these things happen, the person who’s asked to have the job as executive bears the brunt of the responsibility to bring people together,” Walz said in a reference to Trump – albeit not by name. “I don’t think it helps our situation right here [to assign blame].”

The Republican Party of Minnesota criticized Walz for holding a news conference, but not valuing border security, the flashpoint at the center of the shutdown. 

“Maybe it's time for Walz and Ellison to listen to their constituents and call their Democrat friends in Washington to come back to the table and stop putting our national security at risk,” Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said.

The statement failed to mention the Republican lawmakers who attended Tuesday’s news conference. Among them: House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt, who stressed the relative stability of Minnesota government.

“It was pretty important for me to be here,” Daudt said, when asked why he came to Walz’s event about the controversial shutdown. “Number one, because I think when we do agree on things, it’s important for us to stand together and show Minnesotans that doing the right thing isn’t partisan.”

Frans said 6,000 of the estimated 17,000 federal workers who live in Minnesota have been furloughed or forced to work without pay during the shutdown. Unlike state workers, Minnesota is not paying their salaries. At least 1,059 federal workers have filed for unemployment benefits, a spokesman for the state’s unemployment insurance office said Tuesday.

The federal impasse has also shuttered some agencies that businesses and farmers rely on, Frans said. 

“A 25-day shutdown starts to have serious, negative economic consequences,” he said.