What will happen in Minnesota government shutdown?ST. PAUL — Many Minnesotans would feel a state government shutdown, even though a judge is allowing more than a third of state employees to stay on the job.
By: Don Davis, Alexandria Echo Press
ST. PAUL — Many Minnesotans would feel a state government shutdown, even though a judge is allowing more than a third of state employees to stay on the job.
People stopping at a highway rest area or planning an excursion to a state park, forest or recreation area may be inconvenienced if a shutdown begins on Friday, but Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin of Ramsey County District Court ruled Wednesday that public safety and health programs would remain operating even if there is no state budget.
State troopers and prison guards would remain on duty, and most state-funded health-care programs would continue during a state shutdown.
Local government payments would be made. Nursing homes would stay open. Colleges and universities would operate. Temporary assistance to needy families would continue.
But parks and most state child-care programs would close. Lottery tickets would not be available. The state’s two horse-racing tracks would close. State highway construction would stop.
State officials are sorting out the ruling to determine the impact. David Lillehaug, Governor Mark Dayton’s attorney in the case, said Minnesotans will notice this shutdown, unlike a smaller one in 2005. “No one who reads that order will say there is any type of soft landing.”
While Dayton and legislative leaders tried to work out a last-minute budget deal, Gearin released her order that provides for what she called “critical core functions” to keep operating.
“The failure to properly fund critical core functions of the executive and legislative branches will violate the constitutional rights of the citizens of Minnesota,” Gearin wrote.
Local government officials were happy that she ordered state payments to them to continue. “There is no doubt that cities dodged a major bullet this morning that may have crippled communities,” said Park Rapids Mayor Nancy Carroll, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.
School funds will continue in a shutdown, which school officials praised. “We felt that as an association representing school districts, we needed to make the case that K-12 is, indeed, a core function,” said Executive Director Bob Meeks of the Minnesota School Boards Association.
Attorney General Lori Swanson sought Gearin’s ruling to keep government operating because most state agencies would have no authority to spend money. A new two-year state budget should begin Friday, but Dayton and lawmakers could still negotiate a last-minute deal.
The Department of Natural Resources, with 66 parks and six recreation areas, could lose $1 million a week during a shutdown. Among DNR impacts would be suspension of selling fishing, boating and other licenses, and thousands of camping reservations for the July 4 weekend would not be honored.
While licenses cannot be obtained, conservation officers will remain on duty to write tickets for those who do not have licenses.
Also in a shutdown, non-profit organizations that normally receive state payments may not get them, new driver’s license tests may not be available and loggers would not be allowed to cut trees on state land.
The judge agreed with contractors who said shutting down road and bridge construction projects will result in higher costs, but she said they are not a core government function. “The delay in construction and increased costs that will likely happen as a result of a government shutdown will be because of the executive and legislative branches failing to resolve the budget issues,” Gearin wrote.
Federal government-supported programs need to continue, Gearin wrote, such as several that provide health care for the poor, disabled and elderly. Also allowed to continue is what used to be known as the food stamp program.
Services at risk
Here’s what could happen if the state government shuts down:
State parks (including Lake Carlos State Park), rest areas, state racetracks and the Lottery would close. The Minnesota Zoo would also close.
The DNR would suspend fishing, boating and hunting licenses. Enforcement would continue.
Driver’s license exams and driving tests would be suspended. People could still renew driver’s licenses and license plates.
While most health and human service functions would continue, some would stop, including some child care assistance, services for the deaf, senior and disability linkage lines, criminal background checks and food shelf distributions.
Tuition reimbursement claims to veterans would stop and veterans’ outreach claims offices would close.
The Capitol would be closed to the public.