Shutdown scenario surfaces in session’s second week

The 2011 legislative session is less than two weeks old, but some state lawmakers are already talking about a potential budget impasse and government shutdown.

Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, raised eyebrows when he included a “government shutdown overview” on his agenda for today’s meeting of the Health and Human Services Finance committee. He invited state budget officials to recap the steps taken during a partial shutdown in 2005 to keep essential services running. Abeler compared the discussion to reading a fire insurance policy. He said he simply wanted members to know what could happen if this year’s $6.2 billion budget deficit isn’t resolved.

“I want people to know what the stakes are so that we maybe don’t want to go there,” Abeler said. “And far from being a surrender to the indivertible, if you know how bad the outcome might be, you might not want to get it.”

But some Democrats took issue with the discussion. Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, suggested Republicans aren’t serious about solving the deficit.

“I understand wanting to understand the mechanics of a shutdown,” Murphy said. “But I think doing it in a public hearing is sending a message to Minnesotans that at least is confusing from my perspective. And it’s confusing to me about the new majority’s intentions.”

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