What Stops -- and What Doesn't -- When a State Government Shuts Down?

Minnesota state governmentIt has been exactly one week since Minnesota's state government shut down. It's a strange idea, that the publicly-funded portion of the country's 12th largest state by area -- at almost 87,000 square miles -- and 21st largest state by population -- home to 5.3 million people -- could simply stop operating.
But what does it actually mean for a government to shut down? I kept imagining the dusty ghost towns of old Westerns, where the streets are empty and the wind rattles the swinging doors of abandoned homes. But obviously, it can't be anything like that. Those millions of Minnesotans didn't just move out overnight. Rather, they're still going about their daily lives as best they can.

Minnesota state government ZooThe shutdown was announced on July 1 after to budget talks deadlocked between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled legislature. Dayton wants to raise taxes on the state's wealthiest residents to help close the gap on the state's $5 billion shortfall; Republican legislators do not. The legislature passed a two-year, $34 billion budget that Dayton rejected because it did not include any tax increases. Now, the government is stalled, as the state constitution forbids the state to spend money until the matter is resolved. As a result, only those services deemed "critical core functions" are operational.
So, what does Minnesota consider critical? In broad terms, as reported by Minnesota Public Radio:
  • Basic care and services are continuing for Minnesotans residing in state correctional facilities, treatment centers, nursing homes, veterans homes and other state-run residential facilities.
  • The key components of the state's financial system, including accounting and payroll, are running. Key administrative systems, including Internet security, are also operating.
  • Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, and other programs that rely on federal funding are still functioning. However, state-funded child care services for low-income residents have been suspended.
  • Law enforcement and other key emergency workers are still on the job as part of a larger agreement to maintain public safety, including issues related to public health.
  • K-12 public education will continue to operate, and teachers will continue to receive their salaries. However, licenses aren't being issued to new teachers, which means the schools can't hire new teachers. It also means that the one-fifth of the state's teachers who currently need to renew their licenses are unable to do so. Because the state's colleges and universities have their own funds above and beyond the state's money, they can continue to operate.
  • The $265 million that was earmarked for various Minnesota cities is still scheduled to be paid out on July 20, which is important, as it will help cities to continue providing basic services during the shut down.
  • Staff responsible for conducting background checks will continue working so that employers can continue to hire. "For instance, the Minnesota Hospital Association argued that hospitals would not be able to hire new doctors until background checks were reinstated," explains Minnesota Public Radio.
  • Metro Transit will continue to operate the public transportation system because the majority of its funding comes from its customers. However, it's likely fares will increase. It's also unclear if public transportation can finance itself without state funds for longer than eight weeks.
So what isn't considered critical? Here's a partial list of services that Minnesotans are not receiving during the shut down:
  • Road repairs and construction have been suspended. State rest stops are closed.
  • All state parks are closed, as are state-funded museums. Requests for hunting, fishing and boating licenses are not being processed.
  • Tax refunds have been suspended (though the state Department of Revenue is continuing to process tax payments and residents are still required to abide by all existing tax deadlines and laws).
  • Existing drivers licenses can be renewed through police departments, but because the Driver and Vehicle Services is closed, new ones can't be issued. Car inspections and commercial vehicle registrations are also suspended.
  • Grants to nonprofit organizations engaged in the provision of social services have been put on hold.
In addition to these cutbacks, 22,000 state employees have been laid off. They are receiving health care benefits, but not severance or other pay. They are, however, eligible for unemployment, which the state is providing. For more information, visit Minnesota Public Radio, which has provided excellent coverage, including information on the depressing fact that the shutdown is likely to cost the state millions of dollars.

As for the immediate impact, according to The Economist, "For now, argues Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota, the dispute is only affecting a small minority. But the longer it lasts, the more severe the consequences will become. Ever-increasing numbers of Minnesotans will find themselves denied routine services. Temporarily unemployed state workers will struggle to make ends meet. Businesses that serve the state government or have lots of civil servants as customers are already said to be laying off staff."

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caohellsux1978

Hi everyone! I got so tired of clicking on the link "Latest Financial News", and looking at stories that have been there over a month. Their top story has been there since January! And the stories that are actually current, you cant comment on them! I moved over to Yahoo. There pages are much, much better. You actually get current news, and you can even comment! What a novel idea!

July 12 2011 at 6:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wharbe444

with 596 billionairs in this ,country, China next with 11 and more millionairs than the rest of the world combined and the Ripublicans ask the retired on social security and poor to pay the debt off , come on get real

July 11 2011 at 4:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wharbe444's comment
savemycountry911

Nobody askes that. Ask the Dems why they looted it and put the money in the general fund so they could spend it.

July 11 2011 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savemycountry911

Any way you cut it, we're "strewed". Thanks Obummer.

July 11 2011 at 2:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sgentilejr

Sorry to be the first one to say this___But sadly it is ALREADY too way too far gone to be saved. We are currently Borrowing 40 cents of every one dollar the nation spends___so in order to Balance the Federal Budget we would have to cut ALL spending by 40% from top to bottom. 40% Less of EVERYTHING including border protection, military spending, social security checks etc. etc. Can we cut EVERYTHING by 40%??? Because that is what it would take to Balance the Federal Budget. Can people collecting Social Security or VA disability checks or military salaries or on the federal payrolls all live on 40% less? Can people who are on Food Stamps and welfare survive on 40% less? Can farmers give up 40% of their farm subsidies and survive?
Sorry guys___but balancing the Federal budget is already IMPOSSIBLE. And it is also Impossible for every American to repay their share of the National Debt of $14+ trillion dollars, which equals $42,000+ for EVERY man, woman and child in the USA. Can you and your children repay your share of the National Debt? Hell no.

July 11 2011 at 5:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to sgentilejr's comment
bggdg

Actually, cutting 40% of everything is only one option. There are many expenditures that should be cut by 100%. Doing so would mean Constitutionally enumerated expenditures would not require a 40% cut (although some may need such a cut anyway).

July 11 2011 at 7:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nomorebarry7

Those must be old figures, as of 6-1-2011according to the U.S.Census Bureau every American would have to pay 46,000 each to pay off the national debt. Those must be Lib facts.

July 11 2011 at 8:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joseph

keep an eye on minnesota.....it will happen again in august on a national scale.
soup lines and apple carts again....hello 1930.

July 11 2011 at 3:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joseph's comment
bggdg

joseph, how did you become so incapacipated such that it is government theft of the fruits of your labor that keeps you out of a soup line?

July 11 2011 at 7:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bggdg's comment
bggdg

Or is it government theft of the fruits of OTHERS labor that keeps you out of a soup line?

July 11 2011 at 7:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
rockymtn1500

The beginning of the end for the American worker was when Clinton signed NAFTA into law.. Our government has spent billions in the last 10 years on the military, entitlement programs, endless pork projects and education. They have killed working class of people, the middle class will soon be gone, then it's back to the ancient system of elites and slaves. We were sold out by BOTH political parties while we did nothing to stop them.

July 11 2011 at 12:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ireyl42

you want to work WHY DONT YOU GO FOR RALLY WHY THE JOB IS IN CHINA, AND WHO BRING THAT JOB TO CHINA IS THIS MAN KNOWS WHAT HAPPEN WHEN AMERICAN PEOPLE HAS NO JOB. WHAT WILL HAPPEN OR HE SECURE BY HIMSELF.

July 10 2011 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
debij

Interesting that just because they can't get it together and decide anything, it's going to actually cost MORE to ride this out than if they made the changes that were needed. Goes to show you ONCE AGAIN that Republicans aren't much more than stubborn blowhard babies. If I can't get MY way, NOBODY is happy. I hope the taxpayers funding this little tantrum by the lawmakers are taking notes and will act on what they see. The taxpayers are the ones that lose.

July 10 2011 at 7:53 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to debij's comment
nomorebarry7

BARRY SOETORO IS A NO GOOD ISLAMIC RADICAL SYMPATHIZER TRYING TO DESTROY THE AMERICAN ECONOMY WITH HIS BS POLICIES. WHEN ARE YOU MORONIC WELFARE SLUGS GOING TO SEE PAST YOUR WELFARE CHECKS AND SECTION 8 HOUSING ? GEORGE SOROS IS LAUGHING AT AMERICA HIS PLAN IS ALMOST COMPLETE WITH BARRY'S HELP AND YOU DUMBASSS OBAMA ZOMBIES CAN'T SEE IT . HOPE AND CHANGE MY ASSS ~ !

July 10 2011 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wurkinman1

Funny..the FIRST thing you mention is that the inmates at the state correctional facilities will still get care...............WHY list them first....they would be the last on my list of concerns !!

July 10 2011 at 7:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply