Federal shutdown underway

Few local impacts yet beyond closing of scenic riverway

The St. Croix Valley can only watch and wait as the partial shutdown of the federal government that enters its second day today.

The most immediate impact of the shutdown is the closing of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway by the National Park Service and the furloughing of NPS staff at the riverway’s St. Croix Falls, Wis., office.

Calls to riverway manager Chris Stein’s office were greeted with the following recording: “This is Chris Stein. Because of the government shutdown, I have been furloughed.”

The National Park Service web site said the government shutdown has closed all public lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is a national park.

Persons visiting the web site of the National Weather Service’s Chanhassen office were greeted with the message: “Due to the Federal Government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable. However, because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the government shutdown.”

Other local government officials said the federal government shutdown has had little if any impact.

“The answer is that we don’t expect a significant impact on us in the short term,” said Kevin Corbid, Washington County deputy administrator.

However, Corbid added that some county departments could be affected if the shutdown drags on.

“If the shutdown continues for several weeks, we could see some impacts in Community Services,” he said, adding that some county road projects also could be affected.
“We’re fairly independent financially and that effect on the city won’t happen for awhile and we don’t know what that will be yet,” added Stillwater City Administrator Larry Hansen.

As Congressional Democrats and Republicans blamed each other while both houses of Congress met in a Capitol closed to public tours due to the shutdown.

“Today’s (Tuesday) shutdown of the federal government is a manufactured political crisis,” said District 4 Rep. Betty McCollum, D-St. Paul, in a statement. “It has been inspired and executed by a Tea Party Republican faction that controls House leadership and refuses to fulfill the most basic function of Congress — to appropriate funds to ensure government operations continue.”

Republican District 6 Rep. Michele Bachmann issued a statement blaming President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for forcing the shutdown by refusing to negotiate with House Republicans.

“It’s time for President Obama and Senator Reid to actually come to the negotiating table and put an end to their government slowdown,” she said.

But McCollum said House Democrats have tried negotiating with Republicans, but have been thwarted by GOP zeal to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

“All along Democrats have worked for an honest and responsible solution to prevent a shutdown, including compromising to meet Republican sequestration funding levels in the continuing resolution. But that wasn’t enough for these GOP extremists who have now succeeded at holding the federal government and the American people hostage because of their obsession with destroying the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

Bachmannn continued her criticism of the Affordable Care Act in her statement on the shutdown.

“As the implementation of Obamacare comes into effect, the American people are worried and uncertain about the future of their health care,” she said. “How can I in good conscience not continue fighting to protect these families from Obamacare’s disastrous consequences.”

McCollum countered by expressing strong support for the Affordable Care Act.

“Let me be absolutely clear: I strongly support the Affordable Care Act. I stand with President Obama to ensure affordable, quality health care is available for every American, and gutting Obamacare is non-negotiable,” she said.

One group immediately affected by the shutdown was small business owners. Small Business Administration loan programs have stopped because of the shutdown.

Debby Gustafson of Twin Cities Metro CDC, an agency that handles SBA loans for businesses, said no new loans are available and some deadlines such as closing dates for property purchases, might not be reached.

“For example, we have a client who’s purchased a property and we’ve set a reasonable closing date though the seller isn’t happy with the price,” she said. “But now, if we miss our closing deadline, he may have to pay $150,000 more when it needs to be renegotiated.”

If businesses cannot get loans due to the shutdown, the effect could spread to Wall Street, according to Beth Solomon, president and CEO of the National Association of Development Companies.

“When people count on those loans every month, it’s what makes it work on Wall Street that causes people to buy bonds. That has everything to do with low interest rates,” she said.
Gustafson and Solomon commented on the shutdown during a news conference and tour of the Haberman Machine operation in Stillwater.

Solomon said continuing congressional inaction on the shutdown would create “instability” in the business community.

“A government shutdown in the long term creates instability and impacts our ability to do these loans, if they’re open or closed, depending on their necessity and who wants to deal with that, and it all goes back to the congressional gridlock,” she said.

Solomon said the SBA program is non-controversial “public-private mechanism” started in the Reagan era that helps small businesses grow.

“They simply don’t realize the effects on small business that a government shutdown could have on our friends and neighbors,” she said.

“Hopefully this will be done before long,” Hansen said. “It’s just stupidity really. I heard it’s costing $40 to $80 million each day that its shut down and that’s a waste really.”

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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