Shutdown questions and answers

  • Article by: BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 25, 2011 - 8:25 PM

Effects of a shutdown on July 1 would ripple widely, but many specifics still remain unknown.

Here are some answers (some of them tentative) to frequently asked questions about the state government shutdown that could begin Friday.

Why?

The state will run out of money at the stroke of midnight July 1 if Gov. Mark Dayton has not signed budget bills passed by the Legislature. Both sides have been at loggerheads for months over how to resolve the state's $5 billion projected deficit.

What would shut down?

It depends. A judge is expected to rule this week on which state government functions are essential and should continue operating. Dayton has said he believes he can use his executive power to keep departments running that are necessary to ensure the health and safety of Minnesotans. The attorney general's office has asked the judge to appoint a special master to make that determination.

Happy July 4th?

Not if you enjoy camping. Minnesota's 74 state parks almost certainly would shut down, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. With most of its staff likely to be laid off, the department also would stop processing outdoors licenses and close its campgrounds in state forests. Highway rest stops also are likely to be closed.

What about drivers?

According to the state Department of Public Safety, its Driver and Vehicle Services division would be closed, but city and county deputy registrars would be able to renew license plates. People could renew driver's licenses at city and county offices, but driver tests would not be available.

Schools?

Money to keep the state's public schools would stop flowing, but local districts could tap their reserves or borrow money to keep the lights on temporarily. Initially, that means summer school classes would likely go on. But if a shutdown were to last longer than about two weeks, hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid would not be paid out, throwing most districts' functions into disarray. Both the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would continue to operate, according to their officials.

Health and human services?

Dayton has said he would continue to allow payments to flow to health care providers and that MinnesotaCare and Medicaid payments would not be interrupted. Food stamps and welfare benefits would continue to be paid, and Dayton has said new recipients would continue to be enrolled. The courts, however, might interpret critical services much more narrowly.

Courts?

They're expected to remain open, and the state judiciary system has made a formal request to the court that it be able to continue operating.

Cops?

Dayton has said he will keep operations of the Department of Public Safety, most notably the State Patrol, operating. At the local level, cities have argued in court that the potential loss of local government aid could force them to lay off police officers, as well as firefighters.

Road construction?

Transportation officials were expected to start shutting down construction projects sometime this week.

Bob von Sternberg • 651-222-0973

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