Minn. tribe, politicians weigh impact of shutdown
- Article by: BRIAN BAKST
- Associated Press
- October 2, 2013 - 4:30 PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The leader of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe warned Wednesday that a federal government shutdown in its second day would have ramifications on the northwestern Minnesota tribe's health services and its fishery.
In an interview, tribal chairwoman Erma Vizenor said that slowdowns in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be sorely felt. She said the tribe is concerned it won't receive normal reimbursement for health services and health workers might put in hours they may never be paid for.
She said next Tuesday's lake stocking of sturgeon and other fingerling species might have to be postponed.
The fish restocking involves a Canadian tribe's hatchery and is usually done in partnership with federal wildlife regulators. Vizenor said there is a limited window to do the traditional autumn lake stocking.
"We have to coordinate schedules with another tribe and especially one across the border," she said. "It's a big event here when we stock our lakes."
She said 57 percent of the White Earth's annual budget comes from federal funds and prior cuts known as sequestration have already put a squeeze on tribes like hers. "The impact is on real lives," she said.
On the nearby Red Lake Indian Reservation, residents are encountering canceled meetings this week with federal officials on safety matters, including one about how to get a federally financed juvenile detention facility up and running. David Conner, the tribe's self-governance coordinator, said the shutdown only exacerbates budget strains brought about by earlier sequester cuts.
Minnesota has 11 American Indian bands. Some have prospered with casino gambling proceeds, but others remain heavily dependent on government aid.
Minnesota leaders are taking stock of state departments that work in tandem with the federal government to determine those most at risk in the shutdown.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said Wednesday that the state has identified more than 3,000 of its employees whose activities are federally funded. They include health and welfare workers and those who help carry out school lunches and other education programs.
For now, those state employees aren't being furloughed, but they could be at some point. The state would have to give them a three-week notice.
"It will be an evolving situation," Schowalter said. "The problems we know about today may not be the ones we have to respond to tomorrow."
Tina Smith, who is Gov. Mark Dayton's chief of staff, said the state is limited in how it can respond.
"We are not in a position where we can fill gaps created by their political breakdown," she said.
At the Minnesota National Guard, about 1,000 support personnel have been furloughed. Adjutant General Rick Nash said it could eventually take a toll on equipment maintenance. But he said the public can expect the Guard will act if called upon.
The federal government's shutdown has silenced famed musician Paul Simon, at least as it relates to a planned fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Al Franken.
The first-term Minnesota senator had recruited Simon to headline a Friday fundraiser in Washington, but that's now been postponed. Campaign manager Matt Burgess said Wednesday that Franken hopes the shutdown ends before Friday but that the uncertainty in the Senate's schedule led to the change.
Franken had used the Simon appearance as an enticement to his re-election campaign donors, giving them a chance for an expenses-paid trip to Washington to attend. The yet-announced winner will still get to take the trip when the event is rescheduled.
Meanwhile, members of Congress are weighing what do with their own paychecks during the shutdown. They make about $685 per weekday before taxes. Four lawmakers are donating some or all of their pay to charities; four have requested that their pay be withheld. One is keeping his paycheck, and one could not be reached for comment.
Here is a breakdown:
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Donating her full pay to the Foundation of the National Institutes of Health because medical research is affected by the shutdown.
Franken: Donating his full pay to a Second Harvest Heartland, a hunger safety-net organization he thinks may see extra traffic during the shutdown.
Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, 1st Congressional District: Donating his pay to the ECHO Food Shelf of Mankato and Rochester's Channel One Regional Food Bank.
Republican Rep. John Kline, 2nd Congressional District: Requested that his pay be withheld for the duration of the shutdown.
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen, 3rd Congressional District: Requested that his pay be withheld for the duration of the shutdown.
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, 4th Congressional District: Messages left with her spokeswoman weren't returned.
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, 5th Congressional District: Keeping his paycheck, and in a statement said, "I oppose the shutdown, don't believe in it, and did not cause it."
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, 6th Congressional District: Requested that her pay be withheld during the duration of the shutdown.
Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, 7th Congressional District: Requested that his pay be withheld for the duration of the shutdown.
Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, 8th Congressional District: Donating a "considerable share" to Minnesota charities; a spokesman said the amount and recipients are to be determined.
© 2013 Star Tribune