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Minnesota's Top 2011 Headlines

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A budget battle in St. Paul led to the longest state shutdown in U.S. history, and the weather also grabbed headlines for months during the 2011.

The years started with a $5 billion budget shortfall. The newly-elected Gov. Mark Dayton wanted income tax hikes, but the Republican House and Senate wouldn't budge. The session ended in a stalemate and a 20-day shutdown during the summer.

In other words: it was a hot winter at the capital.

But it was worst outside. The coldest air mass in years hit Minnesota, dropping the temperature to 46 degrees below zero in International Falls. Cooler-than-usual temperatures along with 60 inches of snow in the metro made for a long and frustrating winter.

Spring, however, didn't offer much better weather.

On May 22, a tornado struck north Minneapolis, killing one person and hurting nearly 50 others. More than 100 homes were destroyed and the cost of the damage topped more than $100 million.

During August, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty ended his run for the White House. His campaign for the Republican presidential nomination never caught on, and the Iowa straw poll turned out to be the last straw.

But during that same poll, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann found herself on top of the pack – a position she was quick to lose in the turbulent race.

Outside of politics, lightning also struck in August, causing the largest wildfire in decades to burn 145 square miles of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

In September, two American hikers, including Minnesota native Shane Bauer, tasted freedom as they were released from an Iranian prison. Bauer plans to marry fellow hiker Sarah Shourd in May.

Protesters occupied October, as the anti-Wall Street movement came to Minneapolis. In that same month, Minnesota sports fans finally had something to cheer about as the Lynx won their first WNBA championship.

And while this Vikings season will go down as one of the worst in team history. In November, the team took a big step in getting a new stadium when the Ramsey County Commissioners approved building one in Arden Hills.

The news year ended where it started: in St. Paul. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch resigned her post and admitted she had an "innaporpriate relationship" with a staffer. But the controversy didn't end there for the GOP – on Friday we learned the party could be $2 million in debt.

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