ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson asked a state district court Monday to rule that some core functions of state government must continue even if a lingering stalemate over the budget forces it to shut down on July 1.

The motion filed in Ramsey County District Court pointed to services such as guarding prisoners and sex offenders, quelling outbreaks of disease and food-borne illness, operating the State Patrol and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, collecting taxes and running veterans home as among those that citizens should expect even without dedicated funding.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders have reached an impasse over the new two-year budget. The current budget runs out at midnight on June 30 and a state government shutdown looms.

“Obviously, we hope the budget impasse can be resolved and that a new budget can be solidified,” Swanson told The Associated Press. “But if not, the courts will ultimately have to determine what services the state and U.S. constitution guarantee to citizens.”

Dayton’s administration is preparing its own, more specific blueprint of vital services in a shutdown but has so far kept it under wraps. The AG filing initiates the court process by which the Dayton administration and other groups can mount arguments about which services should keep going.

The 21-page filing gives a good idea of those services likely to be at the top of a list of essentials. It cites the state’s role in caring for 1,288 mentally ill patients, guarding 9,000 criminal offenders in state prisons and monitoring 20,000 offenders out on supervised release, and the 616 sex offenders under civil commitment.

The document also notes that there are 754 veterans under care in five state veterans’ homes. It highlights the role of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in responding to national security matters, the State Patrol and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in enforcing laws, and the Department of Transportation in responding to highway emergencies.

It points to 600,000 low income senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, children and their parents on state Medical Assistance; and the role of state agencies in responding to food-borne outbreaks and infectious diseases, in providing protective services for children, and in collecting taxes.

While most of the above services are likely to continue in some fashion, a court will decide the minimum number of employees necessary to accomplish that. It’s likely to be much smaller than the roughly 36,000 state executive branch employees who were notified last Friday they might be laid off on July 1.

Swanson is also asking the Ramsey County court to appoint a so-called “special master,” a judge whose sole job would be to hear legal arguments over which state services should be essential and then issue rulings. That’s how such decisions were made during the brief state government shutdown in 2005, and Swanson said that former state Supreme Court Justice James Gilbert is available and willing to take on the job this year if necessary.

While the Dayton administration intends to present its own argument that certain services be declared vital, other groups and organizations that interact with state government would be entitled to argue before the special master.

A hearing on the AG’s filing has not yet been scheduled in Ramsey County District Court.

While some services are nearly certain to be declared essential, many are not. That could include operation of state parks and trails, processing of licenses and permits, highway and road construction projects and countless other services.

So far, Dayton and Republicans have agreed on only once small slice of the state budget — about $75 million for agricultural programs. That’s in contrast to the shutdown in 2005, when a number of budget bills were passed and signed into law when July 1 hit.

“The 2005 shutdown was relatively narrow,” Swanson said. “The magnitude of legal issues we could be facing this time is much more far-reaching and broad. I expect there will be many, many more legal issues presented and confronted.”

Dayton and Republicans had no direct budget talks scheduled so far this week.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (34)
  1. Joe Hanson says:

    “Dayton’s administration is preparing its own more specific blueprint of vital services but is keeping it under wraps so far.”

    Governor Mark Dayton, leading Minnesota to a Government shutdown.

    1. carla says:

      This is the fricken mess that pawlenty left this state in and left us much sooner than he physically left MN to run for Pres. He will NOT get my vote nor will any one trying to shut this state down. Looks like once again, the right cannot play nice in the sandbox. Big bullies.

  2. Sam I am says:

    He has planned on shutting the Government down since his inaugeral. It was in his state of the state address.

    This falls squarely on Dayton’s shoulders.

    1. carla says:

      sorry but you are wrong, unless you are talking about if the republicans can’t start working with the dems and try to say no to everything….

  3. Pinky212 says:

    You got THAT right! And thanks for my daily chuckle!

  4. Clint Speezo says:

    We should impeach Dayton asap , the people spoke , we are tired of the wastful spending. I lost my job , guess what ? I had no money to spend. The gov. is broke quit spending ! I cant believe they wont take 200 million from a racino , but want to raise taxes. 34 billion is enough make it work!

    1. Jean says:

      Clint – You are 100% right. I too lost my job and quit spending.

      1. Todd says:

        I lost my job and quit spending. The shutdown appears to be the GOP “look what we can do: for their own self-preservtion. I hope Dayton stands his ground.

      2. Bad Analogy says:

        Did you stop eating, too? Bad analogy on your part. People who get layed off collect unemployment checks! Where do the checks come from? If you get sick with strep what are you going to do; die or go to the ER and get some medicine paid for by the government and the people who have insurance? That is really wasteful spending. Oh, by the way I could just say “get a job” like they used to, and not care if you live or die.

        1. Bad Bad Analogy says:

          Working 40 hours a week leaves you very little time to get sick, unless you have a child who goes to school with poor peoples kids. Unemployment checks are an insurance paid for mostly by business owners and the “rich” that can’t ever use it.

    2. llp says:

      Less the 50 percent of the people voted matter of fact only 1/3 voted in the last election. So only a small percentage of the state voted.

    3. carla says:

      Why is Pawlenty no where in your argument? Dayton just started, pawlenty left this state in a mess

  5. Shut it down says:

    I only wish that the gov only provided essential services all the time. I can’t wait for the gov ee’s to scream bloody murder that they have to endure the smallest bit of what the private sector has had to deal with for years. Of coures they will receive back pay and unemployment for their short lived vacation. The shut down will be good theatre.

    1. Shut it down says:

      Yes it is amazing this is actually in their union contracts. Completely the antithesis of responsibility. I’ve seen a few snitpets on tv of the state workers whining and complaining that they will have to modify their routines in any way. Somehow the government has become an employment program to serve goverment. The fact is I’m betting at least 50% of ee’s are duplicate staff that shouldn’t even be employed by the gov in the first place. Even in large corporations you see this type of redundancy and the gov is10-fold worse. I just wonder what it will take to actually get to the realization that more gov and handouts are the problems. It is so blatently obvious but what will it take to overcome as much denial as seems to be present.

      1. Katrina says:

        and where in the contract is it? or it this just another GOP batch of smoke

    2. Zeke says:

      Please show where it ever said they would get back pay for a layoff. The problem can be so many people run their thoughts without accuracy. Those that I know that work for the state would not get back pay.

  6. Trudy S says:

    Governor Dayton in my book is the 2nd worst Governor behind Governor Perpich.

    1. llp says:

      who’s first T Paw

  7. Sandy says:

    One thing that I thought was funny is that collecting taxes is considered an essential function of the state. I can think of so many more things that are more important than that. Come on Dayton, sign the budget and lets get on with it!! This stalemate is going to cost more than the difference that you are fighting for.

    1. carla says:

      I saw that too sandy……..yep, gotta have that. Reminds me of the early tax collectors in the Bible.

  8. just sayin says:

    Dayton is stupid. He deserves a swift boot to the ass

  9. Dave Campbell says:

    Stand tall Governor Dayton. I voted for you inpart because of your promise to make the wealthy pay their fare share and i expect that to happen. The GOP campaigned on a promise to create jobs and balance the budget. So far I have seen neither happen.

    1. Jim says:


      You seem like a bright guy, what percent are we going to need to tax the rich so that the poor can recover from their blight? Is poverty a problem we can fix? Or are we just raising the minimum standard of living? Cable and a car is a right currently, what else will make these people successful and bring them into part of the tax base?

  10. Andy says:

    Shut the State Patrol down they are a waste of space anyways

  11. Shut it down says:

    Yes Zeke, you really figured it out. That is exactly the problem. What an uncanny knack you have. They do get their back pay and that is one reason a “shut down” actually costs money. Maybe your state worker friends haven’t received the memo. I realize to the non-governmental worker this just sounds like it is made up .

    1. Wrong says:

      State workers will not receive back pay. You might want to get your fact straight.

      1. This is true says:

        @ Wrong, I know state workers who are excited at the prospect of a shut down for this very reason. They consider it a paid vacation. You all need to check this out because I know it is how it is. Yes it doesn’t make sense but what in government does>

        1. Sue says:

          I am not excited in the least! I am worried about my coworkers who have under 3 years of state service who will get NOTHING! What is really f’d up is that per contract there has to be 21 days notice(to cover their asses) and it cost the state $20,000 to do this! I chose to work for the state just like many other choose to work wherever they work. I am thankful every day that I have a job, don’t complain about not getting raises and work with some of the most heinous people in society. That is certainly not a benefit that most would take. Please don’t make the state workers out to be a bunch of thieves or trouble makers.

      2. tuna-free dolphin says:

        Who cares if they get back-pay anyway? I certainly don’t. They can file for unemployment and sit on their arses like they do most of time anyway. I am thoroughly and utterly unconcerned about the fate of our morbidly obese government and it’s fat govt. drone staff during a shutdown. Left-wing government creates the soup lines, let its workers stand in them for a while.

  12. Jake says:

    Since when does WCCO use a submitted “portrait” photo for an elected official? Most people get some unflattering candid shot that makes them look like they just swallowed an iguana.

    To be fair, the AG is good lookin’.

  13. tuna-free dolphin says:

    Who’s gonna sign all those welfare checks???

    1. carla says:

      sign mine first

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