Shutdowns are rare, but Minnesota has experience

by Taryn Wobbema

To avoid a total government shutdown, Minnesota’s attorney general delivered a petition to Ramsey County District Court yesterday calling for court authorization for state spending without approval from lawmakers or the governor in the event the two groups don’t reach a budget decision by June 30.

The move would be unconstitutional, some lawmakers argue. The state’s constitution says, “No money shall be paid out of the treasury of this state except in pursuance of an appropriation by law.” The petition requests that the court keep core state services running, like keeping judges on the bench to prevent a “’catch-and-release’ criminal justice system,” according to the Strib.

On (almost) two previous occasions – during a partial shutdown in 2005 and in preparation for a shutdown that was avoided in 2001 – “courts directed core functions to continue” without a budget in place, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said.

“State government shutdowns are relatively rare,” CNN reported this morning. On occasion, states have entered a new fiscal year budget-less. “Most” pass a short-term spending plan or continue funding at the previous year’s level.

How rare?

  • Minnesota had a partial shutdown in 2005 – no budget was set for K-12 education, transportation or health and human services, so all essential activities in those departments stopped for eight days.
  • Atlantic City casinos shut down for three days in 2006 because a partial shutdown put 45,000 state employees on unpaid leave.
  • Tennessee stopped public university classes and road construction and closed parks and state agencies during a 2002 partial shutdown.