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Groups look at shutdown and budget issues

ST. PAUL -- State government and outside organizations are pursuing a two-pronged approach to state spending: write a new budget and prepare for a shutdown if no new spending plan passes in time.

For instance, those serving the disabled are trying to figure out how they can continue without money coming in. The secretary of state says businesses and voters would suffer in a government shutdown. And a child-oriented group urges political leaders to pump more money for young Minnesotans into budgets.

The state budget remained unsolved, with Republicans in charge of the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton at an impasse about what to do with the next two-year budget. They remain $1.8 billion apart on total spending, but also voice many differences in how money is spent.

The Legislature passed a $34 billion, two-year budget before adjourning May 23; Dayton vetoed all but the portion funding agriculture programs. He said he will not sign any more budget bills until he and lawmakers agree on the entire budget.

Dayton wants to spend $35.8 billion, $1.8 billion in new taxes, mostly on the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans.

If no new budget is approved before July 1, the state will have no authority to spend money unless a judge approves it.

A Thursday Ramsey County District Court hearing is scheduled to begin the process of determining what parts of state government would continue to operate.

Dayton's office on Monday announced he would alter his original court filing to ask that providers of health-care services be paid during a shutdown. The governor had recommended to the court that state-funded health programs continue during a shutdown, but the state not pay hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers.

While Dayton can make recommendations, it will be up to the courts whether the providers are paid.

Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota, an association of 150 private providers of residential services for people with disabilities, has suggested its members make plans for how to continue if funding is not allowed.

Also in a shutdown, businesses and voters could face problems, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.

Many of his office's services are for businesses, and "their loss, even temporarily, would be devastating to Minnesota," Ritchie said.

New businesses must register with the secretary of state's office, but would not be able to do so in a shutdown. Without proof of filing with the secretary's office, Ritchie said, a business may not be able to open a bank account or do other financial activity.

Also, the secretary said, if services in his office stop, business, crop and livestock loans may be harder to obtain. And property sales could be delayed because lenders could not check on status of tax liens.

The elections system could be shut down when balloting opens June 24 for an Aug. 11 primary election, Ritchie said. Every month for the rest of the year features at least one local election his office supports.

The Children's Defense Fund, leading a coalition of dozens of groups, is looking more at the underlying budget than the shutdown.

The group has found more than 37 provisions of bills lawmakers passed, but Dayton vetoed, that it says are harmful to children.

An example from the group is that 51,000 children a year would be affected by a $22 million cut (from what was planned to be spent) in grants provided to counties for youth experiencing problems such as abuse, poverty and chronic health conditions.


Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.