(Warning: Use of strong language in paragraph 3)
By Todd Melby
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Tara and Jose Garcia wanted to spend the holiday weekend camping with their four children.
But a Minnesota government shutdown prevented them from pitching a tent at a state park. So they checked out county campgrounds, only to find those parks overflowing with people.
“It’s bulls—t,” said Tara Garcia of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. “I am just feeling, ‘Are you kidding? C’mon!’”
So the Garcias parked their minivan at Ft. Snelling, a state historical site nestled on the edge of the Mississippi River, just outside Minneapolis. That too was closed. They wandered the desolate paths anyway, with nerf guns in hand and a gaggle of kids, all under age 8.
After Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders failed to reach agreement on a $5 billion budget deficit Thursday, state offices, parks, highway rest areas and a state zoo were shuttered. In addition, 22,000 government workers were hit with layoff notices.
When negotiations broke down, the two sides were about $1.4 billion apart with Democrats insisting on a tax increase for the rich and Republicans strongly opposed. The partisan impasse angered many people.
“You have a job to do, figure out how to do your job,” said Laura Sandquist, 27, of Bloomington, Minnesota, who was at Ft. Snelling with her husband. The pair were not there to visit, but to unload their bikes and go for a ride along the river.
Jeff Sandquist, also 27, did not think the shutdown would actually happen. “It’s mean,” he said. “I’m sure they are both to blame.”
At nearby Minneapolis park, Jeff Freidson, 63, of New Hope, Minnesota, was relaxing at picnic table with his family. As a bus driver for a private company with a government contract, he worries the shutdown may threaten his livelihood.
“If this goes on long-term, I’ll lose my job,” Freidson said.
Freidson’s wife was laid off from a teaching job more than two years ago. His job is their only source of income and health care insurance. “Times are tough,” he said. “We really cannot cut back much more than we have already.”
Landing another job seems unlikely, he said, because employers would rather hire young workers than someone nearing retirement.
Mussette Wade, 37, hoped to buy Minnesota Lottery tickets at a Minneapolis gas station. But the state shutdown prevented her from doing that. “I usually buy scratch-offs once a week when I get paid,” she said. “It’s just something I leisurely do.”
Wade was more upset by a bigger shutdown inconvenience: She was not able to visit a friend who is incarcerated in a Minnesota prison. Staff cutbacks at correctional facilities have ended visitation rights for inmates.
Wade had driven to Indiana to pickup the inmate’s parents for the visit. “My friend was really looking forward to seeing his Dad and Mom,” she said. “It’s sad. It’s really sad.”
Editing by Greg McCune