Minnesota Flirts with Failure as Midnight Shutdown Looms

Voices from 'Cone of silence' indicate movement toward possible budget deal.

Update June 30, 6:58 p.m.: For the first time since Monday, leadership from both the GOP and DFL offered a glimmer of hope for the seemingly stagnant Minnesota state-government budget negotiations.

Briefing the media assembled outside Gov. Mark Dayton’s office, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-32B) reiterated how close the two parties were to a deal, Session Daily reported.

“We’ve always maintained that a government shutdown is not only unnecessary but just bad for Minnesotans,” Zeller said. “We’re here. We’re ready to go. It’s time for the governor to call us back (for a special session). We’re too close to the end.”

Sen. Amy Koch (R-19) pleaded with the governor not to shut down the government over a tax increase, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

“Please keep the state open,” Koch said. “It’s the fourth of July. It’s beautiful outside. Let’s let Minnesotans get to those campgrounds and state parks. Let’s let them enjoy the weekend.”

MinnPost reported that Sen. Geoff Michel (R-41) called for Dayton to approve a “lights-on” bill that would temporarily fund government beyond July 1 while the Legislature figured out the budget.

Put simply, if a lights-on bill passes, the government would not shut down.

“The Legislature can pass one bill tonight that would keep the state open,” Michel explained in the Star Tribune. “All we need is for the governor to sign the order to call us back. We do not want to be part of a shutdown. It is not necessary.”  

“I believe we could get to a budget framework tonight,” Koch added. “All we need is temporary funding to do that.”

Gov. Dayton has repeatedly refused to call back the Legislature without a deal on the table. When the DFL got its turn to speak, minority leaders Bakk (DFL-6) and Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-63A) echoed that sentiment.

“Everyone is committed to working on a deal that makes sense for most Minnesotans,” Thissen said. “Minnesotans want a complete deal. They want a deal that is finished.”

According to Session Daily, DFL legislative leaders were optimistic about the prospects of avoiding a shutdown.

“I do think a global agreement tonight that would prevent a shutdown is within reach,” Bakk said, before returning to the negotiating table.

Update June 30, 6 p.m.: Manager Jerry Soma told Fridley Patch this afternoon that the area of greatest uncertainty is child care: 

"Most of the Human Services Programs have been reinstated according to . The one program that there are still questions about relates to low income child care funding. We have many families in Anoka County that are receiving assistance in paying for their child care because of their income level. These are people that are working but have low incomes. At this point we think that this is a program that may not continue. We are still trying to get a clear answer from the state."

Update June 30, 4:35 p.m.: The state of Minnesota appeared destined to shut down midnight tonight as Senate majority caucus spokesperson Michael Brodkorb emerged from the latest round of talks this afternoon with nothing new to share.

"Respecting the cone of silence, I cannot comment on whether or not they're close to a deal," Brodkorb said. "There is no deal right now and there are no more meetings scheduled for today."

In a rare moment of optimism, Brodkorb said he expects that to change.

"The Republican leadership is here and not going anywhere," he said. "I cannot confirm anything but I expect them to meet again today."

While no one from Gov. Mark Dayton's office addressed the media camped at the Capitol, Republican leaders told reporters the two sides are close enough to an agreement to prevent the shutdown, according to the Star Tribune.

MinnPost reported Thursday afternoon that the state Capitol security was preparing to clear the building at 12:01 a.m. The St. Paul Pioneer Press said the impending state shutdown would “result in the largest layoff of state employees in history.”

The League of Minnesota Cities was also preparing for the shutdown, detailing the shutdown implications for cities, as well as preparing to assist cities that are adversely affected. According to its website, “former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz, will begin taking input from interested parties on “core function” designations starting July 1.”

Update June 30, 1:15 p.m.: Talks between GOP leaders and Gov. Dayton have finished after just 30 minutes.

Senate Majority caucus spokesperson Michael Brodkorb said he expects more meetings later in the day but nothing is scheduled.

According to Brodkorb, nearly every GOP state senator is at the Capitol. “They will be here the balance of the day, working towards solutions and compromises and other discussions,” Brodkorb told the press corps. Sen. Tom Bakk said DFL senators are there as well.

It would seem the House of Representatives has also begun gathering at the Capitol. According to one House member, "There are more (representatives) than usual on a nice summer day.”

Update June 30, 12:45 p.m.: Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers have just resumed budget negotiations in an effort to avoid a government shutdown and preempt layoffs of around 22,000 Minnesotans.

This morning’s 10 a.m. meeting ended after an hour and 15 minutes with little to report. As has become the norm, neither the governor or Republican leaders briefed the media at the state Capitol after the meeting.

While things seem to be moving slowly inside the Capitol, community organizations have taken to the Capitol grounds in protest. A preliminary look at today’s schedule of protests is as follows:

  • MN Council of Nonprofits: 10-11 a.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)   
  • MAPE Union:  10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Andersen Building, Lobby)
  • Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans: noon-2 p.m. (State Capitol, Mall & Lower Lawn)
  • Welfare Rights Committee: noon-2 p.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)
  • Fighting Back the Shutdown Rally:  3-5 p.m. (State Capitol, Rotunda)
  • Fighting Back the Shutdown Rally: 5-7 p.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)
  • American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees: 9-11 p.m. (State Capitol, South Steps)

June 29, midnight: The political arena in Minnesota Wednesday was filled with potential, plans and posturing, but by all appearances little progress in closing the $1.8 billion gap that separates Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP lawmakers from a budget deal.   

At around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday the parties concluded what, by all accounts, was their final round of budget negotiations without an agreement.

According to Michael Brodkorb, executive assistant to the majority caucus and state GOP deputy party chair, the governor left the Capitol and there were no more meetings between the parties scheduled for the night.  

This with only a little more than 27 hours to go before a government shutdown.  

According to tweets from Star Tribune political reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger, House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R, District 52B) has said the parties are “very very close on many issues” and that it would be “difficult to explain a government shutdown.”

Moreover, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel (R-Edina) told Stassen-Berger after the meeting that the parties have made progress on “almost every deal.”    

Lawmakers and the governor met Wednesday morning from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and quietly adjourned before slipping out a back door without offering a statement or status update.

Meetings at 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. finished much the same way.

MinnPost reported that unless a late-night deal is made, Republican legislators are planning to “march on St. Paul” Thursday morning to demonstrate to the public their willingness to work.  

Ramsey County Judge Ruling
In a highly-anticipated ruling, Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled Wednesday that core functions of the state government must continue to be funded even in the event of a Friday shutdown.  

According to MPR News, Gearin agrees with Dayton’s June 15 petition which states that correctional facilities, nursing homes, public safety, and payment of medical services are all "core functions" of government.

Gearin’s entire ruling is here, but according to local non-profit organization Minnesota Budget Project here is what stays and what goes:

Funding continued for:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (Food Stamps)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • 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.
  • Immediate public safety and health concerns
  • Benefit payments and medical services to individuals
  • Essential elements of government financial systems
  • Computer system maintenance, Internet security, issuance of payments and other administrative services
  • State aid to local cities and communities
  • Education funding
  • Care of animals and staff security at the Minnesota Zoo

Funding suspended for all other services, including:

  • Horse racing
  • Nonprofit services that are not included as part of the critical core functions listed above.
  • Child care: Programs that are federally-funded through TANF will continue, but payments for all other non-TANF child care assistance will cease.
  • Construction: Keeping a bridge from collapsing is a critical core function, but Judge Gearin ruled that all other bridge and road work is not.

Dayton responded to Judge Gearin’s ruling by saying that she reached an appropriate conclusion, Politics in Minnesota reported.

“It appears that her order arrived at the same middle ground as my administration, and essentially agreed with my list of critical services that must continue,” Dayton said in a statement.   

The Latest in Layoffs
While Judge Gearin’s decision was welcomed by Dayton and other DFLers, MPR News put it in context by outlining the number of active employees various state agencies and organizations will have at 12:01 a.m. on Friday if no agreement is reached.

  • Dept. of Corrections: 3,601
  • Dept. of Employment & Economic Development: 696
  • Dept. of Education: 6
  • Dept. of Health: 189
  • Dept. of Human Services: 5,165
  • Dept. of Labor & Industry: 32
  • Dept. of Military Affairs: 150
  • Dept. of Minnesota Managment & Budget: 183
  • Minnesota Zoo: 150
  • Dept. of Natural Resources: 220
  • Pollution Control Agency: 13
  • Dept. of Public Safety: 1,031
  • Dept. of Revenue: 43
  • Dept. of Transportation: 217
  • Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs: 980

Anoka County
Anoka County released a before the judge's ruling, and the county website has a page devoted to state-government shutdown links.


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