ST. PAUL -- Some state services and projects will begin shutting down as early as Thursday in case the Legislature fails to pass a budget by the end of the month, a team preparing a government closure said Wednesday.
The drop-dead date for a shutdown is still more than 10 days off, but officials say government is too big and complex to stop on a dime. For instance, the Department of Transportation will start putting the brakes on its 142 active road projects so sites can be secured.
"It is not just as simple as turning off the light and locking the door," said Employee Relations Commissioner Julien Carter, who is leading Gov. Jesse Ventura's shutdown team.
Carter and about a dozen agency commissioners detailed services deemed essential. Nursing homes, food inspections, prisons, welfare programs and the State Patrol are among those that would remain operational, though possibly at reduced staffing. Child support checks and unemployment checks would go out.
Offices that issue licenses for motorists, fishermen, dentists and pharmacists would be closed. Vehicle registration also would be curtailed.
Officials couldn't say Wednesday how they would handle drivers caught with expired licenses or tabs.
"It will not be a perfect system," Carter said. "It will be a severely reduced and curtailed system, so there will be inconsistencies."
State parks and campgrounds would be shuttered as would the office that handles grants for 61,000 college students and loans to 10,000 students.
Even services the team classified as essential won't be offered unless state lawyers are able to persuade a judge to let them spend money not authorized by the Legislature.
The attorney general's office expects to go to state court sometime next week, a spokeswoman said.
Under the plan, 24,025 of Minnesota's 52,677 state employees would face an interrupted work schedule. Those workers can use vacation or built-up compensatory time so they can continue to be paid for up two weeks.
Only 8,076 employees are deemed "critical." Another 19,306 work at state colleges, which have enough money to continue operating through mid-July.
The lost productivity from workers could cost the state $3.8 million a day.
Allen Garber, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, said shutdown talk already is taking a toll.
"It affects the morale of the people. Just like you do, they get a salary every week that they live on," Garber said.
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