The prospect of a shutdown of Minnesota government agencies and services is more likely as July 1st approaches with no state budget resolution in sight. Negotiations between Governor Mark Dayton and leadership of the Minnesota legislature are occurring, though it is hard to gauge their progress based on the media coverage and the political positioning of the respective camps. Remarkably, nobody knows for sure what will be the effect of a state government shutdown, which will affect every department, agency and service funded by the state’s biennial budget.
This week Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sought a court determination that certain state government functions could continue to operate without an approved budget. Her Petition painted a picture of criminals being released from jails, sick and disabled patients going untreated, etc. to underscore the need to identify critical functions of state government that, by necessity, cannot be shut down no matter the reason.
Our most recent experience with a shutdown of Minnesota government occurred in 2005 as a result of a budget impasse between then-Governor Tim Pawlenty and DFL legislative leadership. That shutdown lasted approximately one week; a special master was appointed by the courts to review requests for “core function” classification to ensure that tasks deemed “essential” were not halted. The relatively short duration prevented anything cataclysmic from happening; in fact, most Minnesotans probably did not know there was a shutdown based on their own day-to-day activities.
This time, Minnesota businesses may find that necessary licenses and permits, or similar approvals, will be delayed, possibly for an extended period of time. Any business with a pending application for a permit or license, would be well-advised to pursue issuance of it immediately.
Here is a sample of state government functions likely affected by a shutdown:
- Drivers license renewals
- State agency permit and license approvals
- State court civil proceedings
- State parks and rest stops
- Environmental reviews
The actual list of affected functions is substantially longer given the breadth and scope of state government. Whether anyone notices a shutdown this time depends on its duration. Secondarily, the resulting budget changes undoubtedly will have long-term effects on those state services that experience the most significant change to their budgets.
Julie Perrus’ article details Governor Dayton’s plan for implementing a shutdown, together with his plan for dealing with essential state government functions. But even he, as the chief executive of the state, cannot spend money that has not been appropriated by the legislature. Consequently, notwithstanding any shutdown, some level of court activity will need to function to process requests for “core function” classification.
We will keep you updated on the impact of a state government shutdown. If you have questions about the potential impact of a shutdown on your business or organization, feel free to call one of our government relations attorneys. We’ll be happy to talk with you.