Gov. Dayton’s spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci says Dayton will file a petition with Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday that outlines what state services Dayton thinks should continue if the government shuts down on July 1. The filing will be the next step in the process of planning for a state shutdown.
The Department of Human Services notified more than 600,000 low income Minnesotans that state subsidized health insurance coverage, cash assistance, food support and child care assistance may be discontinued on July 1. The state also sent 36,000 layoff notices to state employees last week.
Dayton told reporters this afternoon that he’s hoping he can reach a budget deal with GOP legislative leaders in time to avoid a shutdown but said the public has to weigh in if they’re worried about a shutdown in services.
“There are going to be an enormous amount of very, very serious effects on many good people throughout the state,” Dayton said. “This is, as I’ve been delving into it over the last couple of weeks, a terrible outcome for the state so it can be avoided.”
Dayton and GOP legislative leaders are at odds over the best way to erase the state’s $5 billion projected budget deficit. The two sides are $1.8 billion apart. Dayton wants to raise income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners to balance the budget. Republicans say they can erase the deficit through spending cuts.
County officials, state employees and other groups are facing great uncertainty when it comes to planning for the shutdown. Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy says he doesn’t know how what county services will continue if a shutdown occurs. He’s worried that the county’s 6,500 residents who receive state assistance will have questions for county staff. He said a lot of residents will overwhelm his staff.
“If they can’t get those questions answered at the state and they’re not used to taking their questions to state employees, they’ll take those questions to county offices and county employees,” Murphy said. “I think our biggest concern is that we don’t really have answers to their questions. We don’t really know what the plans for the state for the shutdown in any level of detail.”
Murphy says he’s planning to put more staff at the front counters and at the county phone banks with the hopes of handling questions from concerned residents. He said, however, that fewer employees will be able to process claims and other paperwork.
It isn’t certain what services will continue if state government shuts down. Dayton’s petition to the court will come just two days after Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a similar petition in court. The court is expected to act quickly on the requests since the services will be shuttered on July 1.
Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin told MPR News that she would not assign a judge to the case on Tuesday. She suggested it was unlikely she would take any action on the case until she receives Dayton’s petition.
Republican leaders have scheduled a Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy meeting to discuss Dayton’s shutdown plans on Wednesday morning.
Tinucci, with Dayton’s office, says she expects Dayton to meet privately with GOP legislative leaders to discuss the budget impasse. It would be the first time the two sides would meet since last Wednesday.