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Pioneer Editorial; County resolution reaches out to state for compromise

The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday urging Gov. Mark Dayton and locally elected legislators to come up with a balanced budget before July 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

According to the resolution, thousands of Beltrami County residents could have their benefits discontinued if the state government ceases.

If any of those residents seek emergency assistance from Beltrami County offices, the county would not financially be able to "backfill" all of the costs related to service needs for vulnerable citizens impacted by the state government shutdown.

But people who benefit from public assistance aren't the only ones who will feel the negative effects of a government shutdown.

Anyone with a birthday after July 1 had better hurry up and renew his or her driver's license this month if due. Embarrassment would be added to humiliation to be stopped for something minor like a headlight malfunction and also have to show a law enforcement officer an expired license. Ditto for license plate tab renewals.

And what about the construction industry and tourism? Builders needing electrical inspections or plumbing licenses will have to put jobs on hold if the permitting offices are closed. Resorters who are in line for rental boat permits and visitors looking to buy fishing licenses would be out of luck.

Road construction projects delayed for three weeks might not be finished on schedule before snow flies. If these improvements are passed over to 2012, costs would go up and travel inconveniences on torn-up surfaces would be extended.

Other considerations such as state park vacations and state employee paychecks would end up in limbo, as well as serious public health and human services - specifically programs that provide care for the youngest, oldest and most vulnerable in the community.

As County Administrator Tony Murphy has said, almost everything in Minnesota's counties has a link to a state office.

The County Board's resolution does not take a political stand. Commissioners haven't specifically asked Republican legislators to give up the no tax increase position or Gov. Mark Dayton to back off his income tax increase to the 2 percent of richest Minnesotans.

Rather, the resolution calls on both sides "to resolve their public policy, ideological and financial disagreements, and produce a balanced state budget before July 1, 2011, so that a shutdown in state government can be averted."

The governor and legislators have been chewing on this budget balancing bone since January. They have been stubbornly dug in to their last-ditch positions for weeks.

June 30 looms. They have eight days to accomplish the budget compromises that daunt them. If they fail and government shuts down in eight days, the disastrous backlash from the citizenry will surely haunt them.