Posted at 10:02 AM on June 29, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin is ordering Minnesota budget officials to keep paying for "critical core functions" in a shutdown.
State payments to school districts should continue but road construction and state child care aid won't be funded, state parks would close and 23,000 state workers would be idled if the government shuts down on Friday.
Gearin is also ordering the state to pay out local government aid owed to cities. That's a huge issue for city officials who've been worried the state would stop those crucial aid payments in a shutdown.
Cities are due payments totaling $265 million on July 20.
MPR News reporter Elizabeth Dunbar has been reading through Gearin's decision. She writes:
Gearin said state payments to school districts and local governments should continue even if DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature don't agree on a budget by Friday. But other things like road construction and state child care assistance won't be funded during a shutdown.
She said the state must also fulfill its obligations to the federal government and continue to administer those programs, including food stamps, welfare payments and Medicaid.
Gearin said temporary funding to core services should continue until the end of July or until a budget is enacted
In her order, Gearin identified "critical core functions" that agreed with Gov. Dayton's administration on their definition. Those include:
-- Basic custodial care for residents of state correctional facilities, regional treatment centers, nursing homes, veterans home and residential academies and other similar state-operated services.
-- Maintenance of public safety and immediate public health concerns.
-- Provision of benefit payments and medical services to individuals.
-- Preservation of the essential elements of the financial system of government.
-- Necessary administration and supportive services, including but not limited to computer system maintenance, Internet security, issuance of payments.
Gearin emphasized that state payments during a shutdown should be limited "only the most critical functions of government involving the security, benefit, and protection of the people."
During a shutdown in 2005, Special Master Ed Stringer heard from dozens of petitioners who wanted their funding continued. Blatz will likely hear from even more, because in 2005 only part of the budget hadn't been enacted by the July 1 deadline. Dayton and the GOP-controlled Legislature have enacted only the budget that funds the Department of Agriculture.
Gearin's also appointed former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz as "special master" for the shutdown to hear and make recommendations to the court regarding funding issues.
Blatz, reached Wednesday by MPR News, declined an interview request until the shutdown court process concludes.
This ruling turns the heat down on legislators and the Governor and delays the deeper public awareness about the significant benefits that come from government. I abhor a shutdown but without the absence of "government" in people's lives, it may be difficult to underscore the civilizing powers that good government plays in our daily lives.
My fear is that before those benefits become apparent, a budget deal will be struck and the inaccurate criticisms of "government" continue without wide public challenge.
Judge Gearin has done her public duty. Thank you, Judge.
What many do not realize, is that when the state shuts down--even partway, counties, and sities must too. for example, Hennepin County is sending out 1200 layoff notices in it Human Services Department, alone. What impact will this have? On top of state lay-offs? Hold on if they cannot make a deal. Rebublicans...quit messing around with all of us, poor to upper middle-class.
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