Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota House and Senate have introduced legislation that would keep Minnesota state government running if a budget deal is not reached by the start of the fiscal year. Several bills have been introduced over the last few days that are aimed at keeping at least parts of state government running beyond July 1.
“We have contingency plans for floods, we have contingency plans for natural disasters,” Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said. “We should have a contingency plan in case there’s not a budget resolution.”
Howe introduced a bill that identifies what would be considered essential services. It would continue to provide funding for public safety, health care services, child welfare, transportation, tax collections and disaster assistance
Lawmakers have also introduced a so-called “lights on” bill that would fund state agencies at 70 percent of current funding levels. Public safety would be funded at 100 percent of current funding levels.
Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, says a bill he introduced would also forbid the courts from determining what should be considered an essential state government service. In 2005 during a partial government shutdown, the state courts were forced to step in to determine essential services. Daudt says his bill keeps the courts out of the budget battle between the Legislature and the governor.
“We feel that kind of usurps the ability of the governor and the Legislature to make those decisions,” Daudt said of the courts getting involved. “That decision really needs to come out of the Legislature and be signed by the governor.”
Democrats argue that Republicans are putting forward “lights on” bills because they can’t reach a budget deal with Gov. Dayton. Lawmakers have until midnight Monday to reach a budget deal with the governor. A special session will have to be called if a budget deal is not reached. State government would shut down if a budget is in place by July 1 when the new fiscal year starts.
“It’s an admission on their part that they’re not going to move,” Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said. “It almost seems like an admission on their part that not only can they get it done by May 23. They can’t even get it done by June 30.”
Republicans say Dayton and his commissioners have refused to negotiate the particulars of the budget bills they sent him.
The governor’s office has not made a commitment to the “lights on” bills.
“The Governor is focused on finding a solution to the budget, and has already offered to meet Republicans halfway,” Dayton’s spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said in an email. “We encourage them to join us in seeking compromise and solutions.”
Dayton and GOP legislative leaders are at odds over the best way to erase the state’s $5 billion projected budget deficit. Dayton is calling for an income tax increase on Minnesota’s top earners and an equal amount of spending cuts. Republicans presented a budget to Dayton that erases the deficit entirely through spending cuts. Dayton says he’ll veto that budget.