Senate Leader Warns of Staff Furloughs Due to Budget Veto

November 08, 2017 06:49 PM

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says the Senate may furlough staff and stop cutting checks as soon as December if the courts don't restore their operating budget.

"This is not a game," Gazelka said at a State Capitol news conference Wednesday. "We're in a serious spot."


Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the House and Senate's $130 million budget this spring as part of a dispute over tax breaks and other measures he signed into law. It sparked a legal battle that is now before the state Supreme Court, which hasn't definitively ruled in the case.

RELATED: Dayton Asks Lower Court to Hold Off in Budget Veto Battle

Dayton has insisted the Legislature can take money from the Legislative Coordinating Commission (LCC) to continue operating. Funding for the LCC was not vetoed by the governor.

"The Senate Republican leader is creating this situation," a spokesperson for Governor Dayton said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. "Despite sitting on nearly $45 million in available state funding for his operations, he and other legislative leaders are choosing to lay off their own employees rather than admit that they have misled the courts, the press and the public about their true financial situation."

Gazelka said Wednesday the legislature does not have $45 million from the LCC available. He said the actual figure is about $3 million and even with that extra money and cost cutting, they could only keep operating into mid-January.

"We're appealing to the courts, but I'm also appealing to the governor," Gazelka said. "There's been enough pain. There's been enough blame."

Without extra funding, Gazelka says more than 200 Senate staff will be furloughed December 1. All 67 senators would also get their last paycheck in December.

Rebecca Scepaniak is among the staff members who could be out of work soon. She's a legislative aide for Senator Karin Housley who also attends law school at the University of St. Thomas and has tuition and books to pay for.

"I couldn't really sleep last night," Scepaniak said. "Because I'm wondering how am I going to make rent if we get furloughed come this next month."

The Associated Press contributed to this report ...


Tom Hauser

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