Gov. Mark Dayton outlined recommendations Wednesday regarding what should be deemed critical in the event of a government shutdown. If approved by the courts, it could have far-reaching effects on life in Minnesota. Star Tribune reporters have compiled a sampling of those effects below. Check tomorrow's paper for other areas, including health care.
One of the agencies slated for closure on Dayton’s list Tuesday was the state’s Racing Commission, which regulates activities at Minnesota’s two racetracks. The commission is funded by license fees and reimbursements from the tracks.
Jeff Maday, a spokesman for Canterbury Racetrack in Shakopee, said they would likely have to stop operations if the commission is closed in a shutdown. State law mandates that commission employees or contractors oversee horse races.
“There’s a lot more at stake here for us than it seems,” said Maday, noting that about 1,100 employees could be laid off. That figure does not include trainers and owners who may take horses elsewhere to continue making money.
Maday said they are fighting to keep the commission operational, given that the tracks keep it afloat rather than taxpayers.
If Dayton’s recommendations are approved by the court, the state would cut off funding to school districts across the state. Students may be enjoying summer vacation, but summer school and extended time programs remain active.
To keep those operational, school districts would have to tap reserves or borrow funds. While some districts may have healthy reserves, others are still recovering from delayed and shifted funds in recent years.
The real crunch time for schools starts on July 15, the date of the next scheduled payment. Department of Education spokeswoman Charlene Briner said the department has been encouraging school districts to make contingency plans on the local level.
For school districts, not receiving a state aid check has little precedent in recent history. Briner said the 2005 shutdown was over before payments were due to be sent.
The Department of Education, meanwhile, would become a largely dormant agency. Out of about 400 employees, only six would remain on duty during a shutdown. Among them is an employee who receives calls from teachers and school officials who suspect a student is being abused. Others include key department staffers and security for the department’s building in Roseville.
“Essentially there would be no ongoing activity at the Department of Education,” Briner said.
Under Dayton’s recommendations, federal funds would not be distributed, teacher license renewals would not be processed, and preparation for reporting statewide assessment results would cease.
Officials with Anoka-Hennepin schools -- the state’s largest school district -- have already figured that they’ve got enough cash on hand to get them through August without having to curtail operations, said Michelle Vargas, district chief financial officer.
What’s helped is that the district got half of its annual $100 million property tax payments in May and June. Should a state shutdown continue into the 2011-2012 school year, Vargas said, the district would pursue borrowing money to keep the education program going.
“We’ve discussed whether there are any services we would discontinue, but we said not at this time,” Vargas said.
Still, said Vargas, “we do not have a contingency plan yet, but we will obviously create one when we have more details. . .just borrowing cash will not answer all aspects of what might happen in a total shutdown.”
ERIC ROPER AND NORM DRAPER
Dayton is recommending that about half the 300 state employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs be considered critical, focusing on maintaining security at its Minneapolis and Duluth airbases and securing its arms and equipment statewide.
The Department of Military Affairs is largely the Minnesota National Guard and only 300 of its 14,000 employees are state workers. Most of its armories are staffed by federal employees. At Camp Ripley, the Guard’s 53,000-acre main training facility, support staff will be required for scheduled training.
Guard members currently training for deployments are on federal active duty status and would not be affected by a state shutdown.
Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh said Wednesday that they plan to tap a reserve balance and borrow from other Council funds to keep the buses and trains rolling for at least a month during a shutdown.
The Met oversees operation of Twin Cities buses, the Hiawatha light-rail line in Minneapolis and the Northstar Commuter Rail.
Noting that many other functions of state government will be seeking court protection, Haigh said, "We're not intending to petition the court right now."
The Met Council also is overseeing construction of the Central Corridor light-rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Haigh said state funding for the project already has been appropriated, and special sales tax revenue from five Twin Cities counties is immune to the shutdown.
"We are not planning for any interruption in the construction," she said.
The state's lottery was among the agencies on the chopping block in Dayton's recommendations Wednesday.
Lottery Director Clint Harris declined to comment, but MMB spokesman John Pollard said it would mean "all lottery services would cease as of July 1st."
The most obvious of those services would be scratch off tickets, such as those sold in gas stations.
It would also likely have an impact on Minnesota's participation in multi-state lotto games like Mega Millions and Powerball,
though it remains unclear what the impact would be. An official at the lottery said the state would stop selling tickets for the multi-state lotto games.
The governor is proposing to keep 3,601 of the Department of Corrections’ roughly 4,200 employees on as critical, which would include a large portion or all of those with direct contact with offenders.
The staffers that provide “support services” would likely be diminished. Those services may include policy and rule making reviews, preventative maintenance and public data requests.
“We do have much more extensive plans that I can’t talk to you about,” because those are “confidential documents” said spokesman John Schadl, corrections spokesman.
RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER
Department of Natural Resources
Dayton’s recommendation for the Department of Natural Resources includes keeping only 220 of the department’s approximately 2,600 employees at work, closing state parks and trials and not selling licenses.
“People might want to consider buying their fishing license before July 1,” said Scott Pengelly, an agency spokesman.
But conservation officers would still be enforcing the law, although they may have pick up extra duties in a shutdown.
Under Dayton’s scenario, the state’s bison herd would still be cared for, the Soudan mine would still be maintained and the pathology lab would still do testing.
From DNR’s frequently asked questions:
What if I have a state park camping/lodging reservation for June 30 or after?
Reservation holders are encouraged to keep their reservations. If there is a government shutdown and if state parks are closed, all prepayments and reservation fees will be refunded to customers with reservations impacted by a shutdown.
Can I still make a state park camping/lodging reservation for June 30 and after?
State parks will continue to accept future reservations in June, including reservations for July 1 and beyond. If a government shutdown occurs, beginning July 1 no phone or online reservations will likely be possible until state employees return to work and services are restored.
RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER