A Ramsey County judge Wednesday ruled that core functions of state government must continue even if government shuts down on Friday.
Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin said she agreed with the governor that even if lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton do not resolve the budget by July 1 basic care for Minnesotans in prison, nursing homes, veterans home and state hospitals must be funded. She also decided that health care must be funded, computer system maintenance, internet security and other basic functions also must go on.
But Gearin wrote that she had no authority to order funding beyond the basics. The judge did not order funding of specific services, despite numerous petitions that she do so.
"The Court believes that the negative impact of a government shutdown on these programs does not justify a court in over-extending its authority....the Court must construe any authority it has to order government spending to maintain critical core functions in a very narrow sense," she wrote.
She went on to write that she has the authority to order spending on far fewer services than the state Attorney General and petitioners requested.
Specifically, she also ruled that "regulation of horse racing is not a core function of government," meaning that the Minnesota's two horse racing tracks would have to shut down. While feed and caring for zoo animals must continue keeping the zoo open need not, she said.
"The Court recognizes that this will cause significant harm to the zoo as the 4th of July weekend and the rest of the summer are the busiest times of the year," she wrote.
She also ruled that contracts that keep roads from disaster, such as keeping the Lafayette Bridge "from collapsing," should be funded but said she did not have authority to continue the contracts for other projects.
Dayton has not yet released a comment, nor have Republican legislative leaders. They were in a budget meeting when the order came down. They will resume those discussion Wednesday afternoon. We will update with their reflections when we are able.
DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler, of Golden Valley, quickly commented that Gearin "steps around Article 11, Section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution, which prohibits any state spending without an appropriation passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor" but "respected the separation of powers as best she could."
Here is the ruling:
Updated: 11:05 am