MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Former Vice President Walter Mondale, calling Minnesota's budget crisis a "deadlocked train wreck," on Tuesday offered expert help to end his home state's government shutdown.
Road construction projects, state parks, the state lottery, and numerous state offices have been closed since a July 1 budget deadline passed, resulting in layoffs of some 20,000 of the state's 36,000 workers.
Faced with a $5 billion shortfall in Minnesota's nearly $36 billion two-year budget, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has said he wants to raise taxes on wealthy individuals, while Republicans who control the legislature want spending cuts.
Mondale, a Democrat, and former Republican Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson announced a six-member committee would attempt to find a "third approach" to the impasse.
Some comparisons have been made between Minnesota's impasse and the budget and debt stalemate in Washington. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are at odds about what to do about the federal budget deficit ahead of an August 2 deadline to raise the government's debt ceiling.
"Our fear is large national interest groups will cause a freezing of attitudes, with both sides digging in, making it difficult to compromise," Carlson said.
"Swiftness is vital," he said. "We need a plan that is slightly distasteful to both sides."
Mondale, 83, a former U.S. Senator from Minnesota who served under President Jimmy Carter in 1976, sounded wistful.
"I love Minnesota," Mondale said. "I think we are special. This state has always been a little different and, as far as I'm concerned, better than other states."
The committee, which will begin meeting in private on Wednesday, included business executives, former legislators, a professor and a city manager.
Dayton and Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said they welcomed the help and the prospect of new ideas.
(Reporting by Todd Melby; Editing by David Bailey, Andrew Stern and Jackie Frank)