The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State budget: a closer look

July 4, 2011

Shutdown talk muted along parade routes

ST PETER — A guy sitting along the Vernon Center parade route yells out to Rep. Tony Cornish: “You gonna get this straightened out?”

Cornish calls back, guessing the state shutdown will last “a couple of weeks.”

The guy is none too pleased by that.

“A couple weeks? We got a detour down here.”

The shutdown has stopped construction on Highway 30 between Mapleton and Amboy, which said guy apparently uses to get to work.

And that’s pretty much the worst this Good Thunder Republican gets it during his 10th consecutive year in the  parade. Most folks yell out “Tony!” and one guy jokes about being all out of eggs, but there’s no venom behind any of the jests.

“Actually, I thought it would be more negative,” he said, watching the rest of the parade go by, “but I was pleasantly surprised.”

Earlier in the day, up in St. Peter, Sen. Kathy Sheran walked the parade route before the floats. For the second year, politicians aren’t allowed to march because their glad-handing slows down the parade.

As she’s walking to her car, she’s approached by Julie Carlblom, president of the St. Peter teacher’s union, who said she supports Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget plan.

Carlblom doesn’t like the shutdown, but said it’s worth it if it leads to a tax increase.

For most parade-goers in both towns, though, the Fourth of July was a vacation from politics as much as work.

Gov. Mark Dayton advised legislators to go to their districts and hear from their constituents. If there was much voter outrage at either of these two parades, it wasn’t exactly boiling over.

“People are more interested in the parade,” said Sheran, a Mankato Democrat. “They say ‘hi’ but it’s not the time for them to engage in political discourse.”

The fact that it’s an election off-year also tempered the politicians’ appetite for exposure.

Robin Hughes, a teacher at Mankato East High School, chatted briefly with Sheran. Hughes said she’s concerned about the shutdown, but today’s focus is on friends and family.

Rep. Kathy Brynaert, also a Mankato Democrat, says she decided against Independence Day politicking, given the shutdown.

“It’s not a celebratory environment,” she said.

And despite widespread frustration about the shutdown, legislators may be getting some reinforcement to stick to their guns.

About two-thirds of the emails and messages she gets express “serious concern” about the shutdown but also support for the Democratic position, Brynaert said.

Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, agreed with that characterization.

Cornish said he’d gotten four comments so far that day. One person heckled Gov. Dayton, another thanked Cornish for standing his ground and two more people didn’t like the shutdown but said that might be what it takes to get the cuts they want.

Most people along the parade, though, didn’t want to talk politics and Cornish didn’t shake any hands that weren’t offered or start any unsolicited budget discussions.

“It seems like it’s a day off for everybody,” he said.

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