Budget Talks To Resume; Retired Judge Considers Court Funding

Christopherson (Pool photo by Richard Sennott)

Minnesota budget negotiations are back on today, with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders planning a mid-afternoon gathering in a Senate meeting room.

The Senate announced the meeting late this morning, but there was no word about why Sunday’s budget talks suddenly broke off. There also was no indication about what leaders would discuss today.

The meeting comes as the state faces a Friday government shutdown if no budget is in place. The current budget ends Thursday night and the state Constitution does not allow spending beyond then without a budget.

In the meantime, a retired judge this morning heard a case brought by the state’s attorney general seeking to keep courts operating even if there is no budget.

Bruce Christopherson did not say when he would rule on the case.

Assistant Attorney General Nate Brennaman told Christopherson, who worked in Granite Falls, that more than 53,000 cases scheduled for July would be threatened if the courts did not maintain their funding.

Brennaman also said that law enforcement officers would be forced into a “catch and release” position with criminals because if they arrest someone with the courts closed, there would be no one to order them to be kept in jail.

Also today, the League of Minnesota Cities reported that it was ready to go to court to seek continued Local Government Aid and other payments to its members during a shutdown.

The league says that the state Revenue Department will not issue planned LGA and other checks in a shutdown. Many cities rely on the state aid, and some mayors have said public safety will lose funding if the July check does not come.

If there is no budget in place by Friday, most state programs have no authorization to continue to operate. The state Constitution requires the Legislature to appropriate money.

Democrat Dayton wants a $35.8 billion budget for the two years beginning Friday, funded in part by a $1.8 billion tax increase on the state’s top earners.

Republicans who hold House and Senate majorities went into negotiations insisting they will not spend more than $34 billion and they reject any tax increase.