Minnesota Zoo Slips From Cage of Govt Shutdown

Monday, 04 Jul 2011 02:45 PM

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Minnesotans just might be channeling Simon and Garfunkel for the Fourth of July, as the Minnesota Zoo slipped through the bars of a state government shutdown. The zoo in the Twin Cities suburb of Apple Valley is one of the few state facilities granted a reprieve from the government lockdown this holiday weekend.

Even the Gopher State’s campgrounds and highway rest stops remain closed under the shutdown that began at 12:01 a.m. Friday in a budget battle between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Minnesota zoo, reopen, monkey
This snow monkey named Zumoto didn't get the holiday off after all at the Minnesota Zoo, as a judge allowed it to reopen Sunday. (Getty Images Photo)
But “everything is happening at the zoo,” as Simon and Garfunkel’s 1967 hit noted, after a judge ruled “I do believe it, I do believe it’s true” that the zoo could escape the shutdown, which has furloughed about 23,000 of the state’s roughly 36,000 workers.

The reopening Sunday came courtesy of a ruling from Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin, who agreed with the argument from the zoo's attorneys, who said it should be able to open under a state law that directs zoo gate revenue back to the facility. It has a standing appropriation, they said, so it should be allowed to open, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune.

The shutdown has shut all non-essential state government operations. Although the zoo isn't an essential government service, Gearin rule, it doesn't require a legislative appropriation to operate, so it could open on its own, the StarTribune reported.

The zoo did just that Sunday, when zoo Director and CEO said, "I cannot thank Judge Gearin enough for her thoughtful consideration and timely disposition in this case.”

Two racing operations weren’t so lucky, though, as Gearin rejected Canterbury Park's bid to be dubbed an essential state function so it could continue horse races at its Shakopee track south of the Twin Cities. She denied a similar petition from owners of the Running Aces harness racing track north of the Twin Cities to keep running.


The battle over the state budget in Minnesota echoes those under way in Washington and in other state capitals, as Republicans still energized from gains in 2010 focus on cutting spending and refuse to consider tax increases of any kind.


Minnesota’s Dayton refuses to cave to the GOP's firm stance against higher taxes. Since taking office, he has championed tax hikes on rich Minnesotans — or at least some form of new state revenue — as a necessary part of any solution to closing the state's $5 billion budget deficit.


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