As Minnesota inches toward a government shutdown, cities are clammoring for the courts to protect their state aid payments.
Not doing so, they warned Wednesday, could mean major cuts to public safety services across the state.
“We will see dramatic, dramatic, dramatic decreases in public safety services in the City of St. Paul absent that Local Government Aid check," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman at a press conference at the Capitol.
The League of Minnesota Cities, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the City of St. Paul banded together Wednesday in a court petition requesting that the state continue to pay out Local Government Aid in the event of a shutdown.
Jim Miller, executive director of the League, said the state is obligated to send the checks on July 20 because they are a standing appropriation. Their petition points to this statute, allocating $527 million in LGA to cities annually after 2011.
Miller said the Attorney General's petition last week did not say directly whether the checks should be paid out. John Pollard with Minnesota Management and Budget said those checks would not go out based on Gov. Mark Dayton's petition, since the employees who send them out were not listed as critical.
Miller added that it is hard to describe the exact impact ceasing LGA would have on cities until they know how long the shutdown will last.
"We simply don’t know how long this is going to go on," Miller said.
In St. Paul, 28 percent of the general fund budget is derived from Local Government Aid. Fifty-eight percent of that general fund budget is directed to public safety, according to the petition. Coleman said the check they hope to receive on July 20 is for $31 million.
Coleman estimated that the city would see the effects of no new LGA by August 1st. He said he will do "everything I can" to keep the fire and police departments fully staffed.
“At some point, I run out of money," Coleman said. He added: "We’re going through the same planning exercise that we would if a hurricane was headed towards Minnesota or a pandemic flu was headed towards St. Paul."