MN Senate Announces Layoffs In Budget Dispute With Governor Dayton

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Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R) announces impending layoffs of Senate employees and last paychecks for Senators. He is making the move in response to Governor Mark Dayton’s veto of operational funds for the legislature.

Dayton vetoed the funds as a way to bring the Republican majorities back to the bargaining table over several tax and budget bills. Republicans sued and the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the veto was constitutional. Republicans have ruled out renegotiating the bills which Dayton has already signed.

Press release from Senate Republicans, video of news conference

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced today the Minnesota Senate will run out of money on December 1, 2017 unless new funding becomes available or the courts restore the legislative appropriation vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. The Senate plans to ask the Legislative Coordinating Committee (LCC) for use of its carry-forward funds in order to keep meeting Senate obligations through the end of the year. Even with help from the carry-forward fund of the LCC, the Senate will still have to furlough employees on January 12, 2018 and suspend all operations of the Senate.

Suspension of Senate operations assuming current available funds:

Employees furloughed beginning December 1, 2017.
Senators last paycheck December 1, 2017.
Health insurance paid for through December.
Operations of Senate suspended on December 1, 2017 (building locked, constituent services halted, oversight committee hearings halted, per diem and mileage reimbursements suspended).
Suspension of Senate operations assuming access to Legislative Coordinating Commission carry-forward:
Employees furloughed beginning January 12, 2018.
Senators last paycheck January 1, 2018.
Employer share of health insurance paid through February.
Operations of Senate suspended on January 12, 2018 (building locked, constituent services halted, oversight committee hearings halted, per diem and mileage reimbursements suspended).

“We don’t take the suspension of operations of the Minnesota Senate lightly – this is not a game – but we really have no other choice today,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “The Senate is running out of money due to Governor Dayton’s veto of our appropriation. Even though we prevailed in our lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court, the Governor refuses to recognize that order and is forcing us to spend down our carry forward.”

Senate leaders emphasized the Legislative Coordinating Commission carry-forward is available because it has not been appropriated for a specific purpose, while the entire 2018-19 LCC funding has been appropriated by the legislature and signed by the Governor for very specific purposes.
The office of the Legislative Auditor is funded through the LCC and Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles has already expressed concerns about certain functions of his office being suspended – specifically the certification of state financial reports that support the state’s credit rating and the receipt of federal funds.
The Office of the Revisor of Statutes is also funded through the LCC and they work year-round with state agencies on rule making authority. The Revisor’s office would also be necessary to draft a bill to restore legislative functions once session begins in February.
“The staff of the Legislative Coordinating Commission were not part of this fight between Governor Dayton and the legislature and it would be extremely unfair to drag these non-partisan public employees into it,” added Gazelka.

Majority Leader Gazelka called on the courts to act soon to restore the appropriation to the legislative branch, reminding them of their order from September 8, 2017:

“Further, a proper respect for our co-equal branches of government counsels that we intervene in their dispute only when absolutely necessary.

“It has become ‘absolutely necessary’ for the court to weigh in. The people of Minnesota will no longer have a voice in the legislative branch after the first of the year, not to mention the pain inflicted on our employees.”

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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