A fire at the former home of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in Minneapolis was deliberately set and investigations are underway to determine if the incident was a result of public rage over the government shutdown, said Minneapolis police sergeant Steve McCarty.
The fire was reported at about 2 a.m. Saturday at the home near Lake Harriet, but according to the officials, the home’s current owners were able to put it out before firefighters arrived. The fire did little damage.
That it was no accident was confirmed as investigators found gasoline and lighter fluid at the scene.
The incident occurred on the second day of a state government shutdown caused by deadlock over the balancing of the state budget. Barring the most critical state functions, all government services were closed Friday, including the state parks for the Fourth of July weekend. The shutdown also forced the furlough of 23,000 out of 36,000 of states employees.
The arson may have been caused by disgruntled Minnesotans.
Sgt. Steve McCarty said someone who thought the governor still owned the house may have started the fire.
“To say that it’s politically motivated at this time would be premature, but you certainly can’t ignore that,” said McCarty.
Dayton no longer owns the home and another family lives there, he said.
Dayton and the Republican-led legislature have been far apart in their public positions over a two-year budget plan to close a $5 billion deficit. Only the agricultural budget was approved during the legislative session that ended in May, reported Reuters.
Dayton’s first budget proposal included an income tax increase on the wealthiest state residents and an expansion in overall spending. Republican leaders first sought some tax cutbacks in aiming to halt spending increases.
Republicans offered a plan before the shutdown that included selling bonds backed by revenue from a 1998 health-care settlement with tobacco companies, House Speaker Kurt Zellers told reporters July 1. That would add debt, which is “what got us into this budget mess in the first place,” Dayton said during a June 30 news conference at the state Capitol.
Dayton, who now lives in the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, has not lived in the house since 1985 and has declined to comment on the fire, spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said in an e-mail, according to Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, the present owners told a local news channel they wanted to make it clear that Dayton did not live there.