First day of the state government shutdown

As we enter the first day of the Minnesota state government shutdown, we wanted to take a few moments to reflect on what is still running and direct you to resources you may find useful.

Earlier this week, the court ruled on what government services should continue in the event of a shutdown (our earlier blog discusses Judge Kathleen Gearin’s order). Here are some examples of what is still open, either because the court ruled it a critical core service, or because it has an alternative funding source:

  • Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled on Wednesday that constitutional offices should remain open, that means the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor will continue to function during a shutdown.
  • Judge Bruce Christopherson ruled on Tuesday that Minnesota’s court system must remain open to protect the constitutional rights of individuals.
  • Programs that are federally-funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid (known as Medical Assistance in Minnesota) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps) will continue to operate.
  • State-funded health care programs, such as MinnesotaCare, will continue to serve individuals and health care providers will be paid.
  • Nursing homes, regional treatment centers and veterans homes will remain open and providers will be paid.
  • The Unemployment Insurance system will remain functional during a shutdown. To deal with the anticipated rush of state worker claims, a schedule for when eligible individuals should apply has been created.
  • Although state-run Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) offices are closed, offices run by other entities will remain open and process limited functions like driver’s license renewals, tabs and plates. To find an open office, visit mndep.com.
  • Although the Minnesota Zoo will be closed (a decision that is being appealed), they have announced that their summer concert series will continue and the IMAX theater will be open.
  • Most state forests and trails are open for day use, as are public water accesses. State parks are closed.
  • Although you cannot purchase a fishing license, the DNR will continue enforcement.

Judge Gearin’s decision contains a more detailed list of what funding will continue. The document isn’t too long, so it is worth a read.

Of course, there is a great deal that is not being funded. And some of those funding decisions are being challenged or need further clarification. The court-appointed Special Master, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz, started holding hearings beginning on Friday morning to hear from entities that are petitioning the court to have elements of funding continue during a shutdown. A list of the entities appearing before the Special Master on Friday has been posted on the Second District Court’s website. Some of the issues being discussed include support for background studies and housing access services.

Although an estimated 23,000 state employees will be laid-off as of Friday, the unions reached an agreement with the state to save costs: laid-off state employees won’t be paid severance or vacation during the shutdown, although they will continue to be eligible for health care benefits. State employees will also be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

More information on how the shutdown is impacting Minnesota’s nonprofit sector is available from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit’s government shutdown resource page.

And if you want a chance to speak up, Minnesota Public Radio is collecting people’s stories, questions and insights on the government shutdown.

Of course, behind all of this is a conflict between two fundamentally different philosophies about the future of Minnesota. If you want to reflect on what policymakers are fighting over during this shutdown, then review our recent analysis, A Tale of Two Visions: Comparing Governor Dayton’s and the Legislature’s FY 2012-13 Budgets.

-Christina Wessel

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