Posted at 1:21 PM on July 12, 2011
by Paul Tosto
MPR News reporter Catharine Richert continues to do great work answering reader questions about the shutdown.
She's updated the FAQ page today and you should check it out. It answers a lot of the practical questions we've been getting. I've included a few of them below.
Got a question about the shutdown you haven't yet seen answered? Post it below or shoot me an email directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Why is the state going through a government shutdown?
A: Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature are at odds over $1.8 billion in state spending for the upcoming two-year budget cycle. The governor has proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans to support more spending in the coming biennium, but Republicans have rejected Dayton's plan. The Legislature passed a $34 billion budget with no tax increases, but Dayton vetoed it.
The Minnesota Constitution requires appropriations before the state can spend any money, and so far, only funding for the Department of Agriculture has been signed into law.
For services to continue at all other agencies and departments, Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature needed come up with a spending agreement by midnight on June 30, the start of the new fiscal year, but they didn't. On July 1, roughly 22,000 state employees were laid off.
Q: Which government services are continuing during the shutdown?
A: For the most part, Gearin agreed with Dayton's definition of government's "critical core functions." Broadly, they are:
• Basic custodial care for residents of state correctional facilities, regional treatment centers, nursing homes, veterans homes 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.
Q: How did the government decide which services to continue?
A: First, agencies compiled and submitted a list of what they considered critical services to Minnesota Management and Budget, which then made recommendations to the administration.
Dayton subsequently submitted a petition to the Ramsey County District Court, as did Attorney General Lori Swanson, who petitioned for a broader array of services to stay open. The ultimate decision rests in the hands of the courts.
Enter Gearin and Judge Bruce W. Christopherson, who in a separate ruling agreed that the state's judicial system should continue to function during a shutdown.
In her ruling, Gearin also appointed retired state Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz as Special Master to hear and make recommendations to the court about funding issues.
$1.8 billion to $0. The FAQ, and nearly all reporting on the shutdown by the media, don't report the essential reason for the shutdown. A week before session ended, Dayton and the GOP were $3.6 billion apart. Dayton had a press conference, offering to make further cuts to his budget plan, in the spirit of compromise, by $1.8 billion. The GOP's response (press conference the same day) was to increase their plan by $0. So they're actually $3.6 billion apart. Dayton has offered to meet the GOP halfway, and even offered to raise revenue in ways other than income taxes, while the GOP has offered $0 in new revenue. $1.8 billion to $0. That's why there's a shutdown.
I dont understand when there is a state shutdown why one of the first actions of legislators is to guarantee their own salaries. This seems as if Legislators are self serving first and then serving the public is further down the line somewhere.