Lawmakers optimistic about budget deal, but shutdown preps still underway |

Lawmakers optimistic about budget deal, but shutdown preps still underway

Tom Hauser
Updated: June 15, 2021 06:13 PM
Created: June 15, 2021 04:21 PM

The leaders of the Minnesota House and Senate expressed optimism Monday that the legislature will pass a budget by June 30 and avoid a government shutdown.

"It's our intention, both the Senate and the House, to get done in a timely fashion," Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said. "It's never easy, but we will not go to July 1." DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman agreed. "I don't think we'll be close to June 30th," she said. "I would suspect we'd be done days before that."

Those best-case scenarios are in contrast to the worst-case scenario many state government officials are working on.

Early in June, 38,000 state employees received notices they could be laid off on July 1 if there's no budget agreement. The Minnesota Department of Transportation and its contractors are preparing for the possibility of mothballing 200 state highway projects. State vendors of all kinds have been notified they might stop getting paid on July 1. The Minnesota Gambling Control Board even sent emails to pulltab operators around the state telling them they might have to cease operations after June 30 because the board would be "unable to continue ... lawful-gambling oversight."

"It's way different than under Dayton or Pawlenty," Gazelka said, referring to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the 2005 shutdown and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who was in office during the 2011 shutdown. During those years, courts ordered much of state government funding to continue. A 2017 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling says that will no longer be permitted.

"Think about all the things that the courts once figured out a way to pay that would not be paid this time around and you realize it's not what it used to be," Gazelka told his Senate colleagues on Monday.

Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier said Minnesotans would definitely feel the impact of a 2021 government shutdown much more than in 2005 or 2011.

"You could lose unemployment checks, you could lose state park access, you could lose state driver's license renewals. A whole bunch of services we take for granted could disappear on July 1," Schier said.

After a hectic and busy first day of the special session on Monday, the Capitol was mostly empty on Tuesday while work continued behind the scenes. The House and Senate are not expected to take up substantial debate on the first of more than a dozen budget bills until Thursday.

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