Washington – Minnesota’s top budget official voiced unease Friday about the looming uncertainty of a protracted federal government shutdown.
“Short term we don’t see an immediate effect, but the long-term nature of this makes us concerned,” Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans told the Star Tribune.
Frans said he grew more worried after President Donald Trump vowed in a tweet early Friday that “there will be a shutdown that will last a very long time” if Democrats voted against appropriating $5 billion for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
With lock-step Democratic opposition, Republicans lack enough votes in the U.S. Senate to approve a measure that passed the U.S. House on Thursday night to keep the government running until Feb. 8 and provide $5.7 billion for the border wall.
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, both Democrats, flew to Minnesota on Thursday, then returned to Washington on Friday as last-ditch negotiations intensified.
“Shutting down the government hurts our economy and means public servants like FBI and TSA agents will work without pay over the holidays,” Klobuchar said.
The partial shutdown would affect only 25 percent of the federal government. It was not immediately clear how many Minnesota employees would be affected, though the state has 16,795 federal civilian workers, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Frans said that 3,000 federal employees work at Minnesota’s state agencies, mostly those overseeing veterans, health and human services, transportation, employment and economic development.
He said the state routinely prepares for short-term government shutdowns, especially lately. Partisan brinkmanship has resulted in more than a half dozen threatened shutdowns in the past couple of years.
State agencies are reaching out to their federal partners to prepare. But the state is looking at what the longer-term impact will be on programs that depend on federal reimbursements, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The state provides cash aid to low-income citizens and is paid back by the federal government. Minnesota has enough money to keep making such payments for a while, according to Frans, “but at some point we’d have to ask ourselves, ‘Is the federal government actually going to reimburse us for this money?’ ”
Federal agencies that will lose funding are the departments of transportation, state, treasury, housing and urban development, agriculture, commerce, justice, interior and homeland security.
Such shutdowns are not easy for the many federal employees working at lower grades and living paycheck to paycheck, according to Gregg James, national vice president at the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union for civilian, nonpostal employees of the federal government. Based in Bloomington, he represents a district that spans Minnesota and four other Midwestern states.
“They always talk about how employees will get back pay, but how many landlords say, ‘Pay me when you get paid’?” James said. “The bills are due when they’re due.”
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm service centers prepare to shut down in Minnesota and across the country, Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap predicted harder times for farmers who depend on those services to get government loans using crops as collateral if the shutdown spills into next year. January is the time, he noted, when many farmers are making plans. He also questioned how a shutdown would affect a program to offset farmers’ losses from Trump’s new tariffs; the USDA has just started processing those payments.
“We need our USDA folks at work helping to advocate for America’s farmers and ranchers,” Paap said.
Late Thursday, the House passed a stopgap funding bill 217-185 that included money for the border wall. In their last major votes, Minnesota’s two departing Republican congressmen diverged. U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, who has advocated a more moderate approach to immigration reform, voted against it.
But U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, another Minnesota Republican leaving Congress, said that he voted for the legislation “that would ensure we properly fund border security [so] that we know who is coming into our country and we stop those who wish to do us harm.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer also voted for the legislation. Three of Minnesota’s Democrats opposed it: U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan. Democratic U.S. Reps. Tim Walz, the incoming governor, and Keith Ellison, the incoming state attorney general, were absent.