ST. PAUL -- Attorney General Mike Hatch filed an unprecedented motion Thursday, asking the courts to assure continued funding of critical functions of state government in the case of a shutdown.
The motion asks the judicial branch to take over responsibility for funding the "core functions" of government and order the finance commissioner and state treasurer to issue checks to pay for the services from the general fund.
"This is extraordinary for the court to be ordering core functions to be operated in the absence of a legislative appropriation," said Al Gilbert, chief deputy attorney general. He said no similar lawsuit has been filed in state history.
A month after the legislative session ended, lawmakers have not passed any of the eight major funding bills or the tax bill. On July 1, state agencies will run out of money unless lawmakers reach a consensus and approve funding for them.
A hearing is scheduled in Ramsey County District Court next Friday, one day before funding for the government would run out. Gilbert said he wanted to give the governor and Legislature as much time as possible to pass the funding bills without court intervention, and the court motion is a backup measure.
Hatch's motion asks that the state court administrator determine which functions of state government are considered "core" and should be funded by order of the court. Gilbert said the commissioners and agency directors would tell the court what they considered to be core in their own departments.
Gilbert said he expects the attorney general's list of core functions to be broader than the Ventura administration's tally, which was released Wednesday.
Under the administration's plan, 24,025 of Minnesota's 52,677 state employees would face an interrupted work schedule. Those workers could use vacation or built-up compensatory time to be paid for up two weeks.
Gilbert said "anything that potentially affects the life, health and safety" of Minnesotans could be considered a core function. He said education and occupational regulatory boards are both core functions of the state.
Some state services and projects -- such as road construction -- began stopping on Thursday in preparation for a possible shutdown.
Meanwhile, lawmakers were trying to decide whether they and their staffs would be paid during a shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, said that if the worst case scenario comes to pass and legislative employees continued to work, they would be paid.
"The bottom line is if anybody works, they will eventually be compensated," he said.
In the House, all employees will be expected to report to work as usual for the first two weeks in July. They will be paid from a fund for special session expenditures, said Kelly Knight, House human resources director.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.