Minnesota officials: shutdown impact still not clear

State government officials in Minnesota are still reluctant to predict how the federal government shutdown might effect their local work, mostly because they don’t know how long it might last.

State finance officials at Minnesota Management and Budget were scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the shutdown, according to John Pollard, the department’s legislative and communications director. But Pollard said determining the impact is a challenge.

“There are a lot of variables in play, and each agency is different,” Pollard said. “We think the biggest variable that will determine the impact is the duration.”

For instance, Pollard said several state agencies have some federally-funded employees. But he said they have the legal authority to transfer funds to cover those employees, at least temporarily.

The Minnesota Department of Education is one of the state agencies that relies on federal funds. MDE Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said her largest concern is for the student food and nutrition programs.

“We want to be able to feed kids on time and make sure that they’re able to have the necessary nutrition,” Cassellius said. “There are no impacts at this moment, but if this becomes protracted, we do think that this could impact that.”

Cassellius said the federal shutdown could also slow the processing of grants and the renewal of the state’s federal education waiver.

Gov. Mark Dayton told reporters yesterday that he and other governors participated in a conference call with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about the shutdown and discussed some of the immediate impacts on federal employees and various government transactions. He too said the length of the shutdown is key.

Dayton described the inability of Congress to resolve its differences as “deplorable.” But he was particularly critical of the Republican lawmakers who remain intent on trying to stop the Affordable Care Act.

“To have a minority of of right wing extremists hijacking the Republican Party and then hijacking the country to me is just appalling,” Dayton said. “It’s really unthinkable, but it’s happening.”

UPDATE

MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter issued the following statement this afternoon:

In response to the federal government shutdown, Minnesota Management and Budget has activated the Statewide Contingency Response Team.  The administration is coordinating with state agencies to determine impacts, and potential impacts, to the programs and services the state provides to our citizens and communities.

Due to the size and complexity of federal funding, determining impacts is complicated.  Not all agencies, and therefore services, are impacted equally.  We expect the list of services impacted to grow depending upon the duration of the shutdown.

As always, our goal is to provide for a continuity of priority critical services.  We will be doing everything possible to ensure that Minnesotans continue to receive the highest level of services possible from state government.