Sunny for the 4th, but still no thaw

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2011 - 6:36 AM

State lawmakers mostly kept a low profile Monday, but those on parade found plenty of support.

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Parade attendees mostly cheered as state Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, marched in the annual July 4th parade in his hometown. But a few paradegoers offered sharp commentary on the state shutdown; one, above, held a sign reading “Shame on you.”

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Sen. Geoff Michel wasn't about to miss marching in the July 4th parade in his hometown, Edina, for the 10th year in a row.

With his wife, Annie, and four daughters, the Republican deputy majority leader walked the parade route under sun-washed skies Monday afternoon. But here and there, the long shadow of the shutdown -- in Day 4 on the Fourth -- was evident.

Michel was met with isolated heckles, including "Where's the compromise?" and "Get the deal done!" One profanity uttered from the crowd got a response from another paradegoer of "Same to you!"

But there was also plenty of support; Michel often was slowed by the crowd seeking hugs and photo opps.

"It's nice to have one day where we can set aside [the rhetoric]; it's nice just to get some perspective," he said later.

Not to mention reacquainting himself with his family. "I can't believe this is going to go on too long," he said of the shutdown.

Across Minnesota, Monday was a day for fireworks, but, for the most part, they were not of the political kind. Lawmakers from both parties who ventured to public events met with mostly polite receptions, with just a few sparks flying.

Last Thursday, after an ugly week of illusory hope and, at the last, unfettered bitterness, Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders abandoned talks on how to close a $5 billion budget gap. On Friday, much of state government -- including state parks and highway rest stops that would normally see heavy use on the holiday weekend -- went dark.

Dayton had no public events scheduled for Monday. Similarly, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, were out of the public eye.

"I think people understand that having a bit of a cooling-off period is probably a good thing," said state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, who, as deputy minority leader, has also been part of the negotiations.

Still, glad-handing politicians are a parade staple.

In Ely, Richfield and several other cities, state lawmakers were absent from parades. But from Forest Lake to Coon Rapids to Eagan, others joined in, with only an occasional jeer taking the burnish off the holiday.

Both Michel and state Rep. Keith Downey, a second-term Republican from Edina also in the parade, said they were buoyed by the support they received Monday. A survey of Downey's middle-of-the-road constituents found 71 percent support the Republican position of limiting state spending to $34 billion -- the amount of revenue expected by the state for the biennium, he said.

Now that much of state government has shut down, Downey said, it might provide a new framework for negotiations apart from what has led to the impasse. He and colleagues plan to meet at the Capitol later this week to discuss specifics.

Across the Twin Cities, at the July 4th parade and celebration in St. Paul's St. Anthony Park neighborhood, state Rep. Alice Hausman and state Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, both DFLers, also got a generally supportive reception.

Even state employees feeling the direct effects of job loss back Dayton's position of taxing the state's highest earners to raise revenue for services and avoid cuts, Hausman said, because they realize what's at stake.

At Eagan's parade, there was a little more grumbling as some constituents voiced disgruntlement with Republican Sen. Ted Daley.

"Go get your job done!" shouted Bill Egan, a 52-year-old salesman who said he's disgusted by the standoff.

"I just want to see compromise," said Egan, who described himself as a Democratic-leaning independent who voted for Daley last year.

Egan said he's tired of politicians 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.

As Daley moved on with the parade, one man shouted, "Get back to work, Daley!" But a second later, another hollered, "Good job, Ted!"

The supporter was Rick Moore, 46, a state Department of Veterans Affairs worker who was furloughed Friday and sides with Republicans. Moore, who said he could weather a three- to four-week shutdown, said he hopes Republicans won't give in 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."

Staff writer Rachel Stassen-Berger and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Jim Anderson • 651-735-0999

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