Minnesota legislators are facing angry voters but also finding some support as they spend time in their districts on a holiday weekend that coincides with the state's government shutdown.
EAGAN, Minn. - As Republican Sen. Ted Daley hustled up Yankee Doodle Road in the lineup for Eagan's Fourth of July parade, some of his constituents wondered loudly why he wasn't at the state Capitol 10 miles to the north trying to end the state government shutdown that was in its fourth day.
"Go get your job done!" shouted Bill Egan, a 52-year-old salesman who said he's disgusted by the standoff between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republicans who control the Legislature.
The two have been at odds over the state budget since they were sworn in early this year. Republicans want to limit state spending to $34 billion, the amount the state is expected to bring in over the next two years, while Dayton wants to raise income taxes on the state's top earners to provide $1.8 billion more to keep up with growing demand for state services and prevent cuts to social programs and public colleges.
With neither side willing to budge, talks broke down Thursday night hours before the government shutdown. They have yet to resume as Dayton urged lawmakers to spend the holiday weekend in their districts, listening to the people they represent.
"I just want to see compromise," said Egan, a Democratic-leaning independent who voted for the Republican Daley last year "because he goes to my church." Watching the state's second government shutdown in six years, Egan said he's tired of politicians promising and then failing to compromise.
"Every two years, new people say it's going to change, we're going to change," Egan said. "Then it's the same old party-line crap."
Daley, a 45-year-old accountant, West Point graduate and Desert Storm veteran, said he ran for office because he believes growth in the state's spending on health and human services isn't sustainable.
"When I talk to business owners in my district, they tell me they've cut their budgets 5 percent, 10 percent in the last two years," Daley said. "We have to get it under control."
As he strode the parade route in a sweat-dappled blue T-shirt with the words "I'm Ted" on the front, Daley heard criticism and praise. When the lawmaker rounded a corner, one older man shouted "Get back to work, Daley!" but a second later, another man hollered, "Good job, Ted!"
The supporter was Rick Moore, a 46-year-old state Department of Veterans Affairs worker who was furloughed Friday but is still siding with Republicans. Moore said he could weather a three- to four-week shutdown, and he hopes Republicans won't give in to the governor because he believes state spending is out of control.
"I think we have to be responsible," Moore said. "I don't have a Corvette or a four-wheeler. I'm responsible with my money, and I expect the state to be, too."
But another state worker approached Daley along the parade route to demand an end to the shutdown. Deb Hagen, a 45-year-old therapist at a state prison for female offenders, is working because her job was deemed essential. But many of her friends are not.
"Get us back to work," Hagen told Daley. She said later that she's a Republican and voted for Daley last year, but she supports Dayton's call to tax the rich. Would she vote for Daley again? "It depends what happens with this," she said.
Daley was one of 19 new Republican state senators elected in November. Most unseated Democratic incumbents, and their victories helped give the GOP control of the state Senate for the first time in decades. Minnesota senators usually serve four years, but once per decade after redistricting their terms are abbreviated to two. That means all the state's lawmakers are up for re-election next year.
Dayton considers that an advantage since he won't be on the ballot until 2014. "If we incur the wrath of the voters by our failure to serve the interests of the people of Minnesota, they (Republicans) get to face that wrath before I do," Dayton told The Associated Press in December, just before his inauguration.
Daley knows his district, where Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty launched his career, has grown friendlier to Democrats in recent years. In 2006, the first election after the last shutdown, voters in his district kicked out a Republican senator and representative. The GOP lost its state House majority in that election, though Pawlenty held on to win a second term as governor.
Two of Eagan's most prominent Democrats want to run against Daley next year: Mayor Mike Maguire and former senator Jim Carlson, whom Daley unseated last year.
"Ted's a nice guy, but he's just followed the Republican leadership's marching orders," said Carlson, 64, as he prepared to walk in Monday's parade. Referring to a well-known Republican anti-tax activist, Carlson said, "Grover Norquist has said conservatives want to drown government in the bathtub. Well right here, right now, they are holding it under water."
Daley said he didn't want the shutdown and believes both sides must compromise — but he won't give an inch on the question of tax increases, no matter the political consequences.
"We need to do the right thing," he said.
Patrick Condon can be reached at http://twitter.com/pcondonap