Tricounty News

How you may be affected if (when) the state government shuts down

It seems the State of Minnesota couldn't have picked a worse time than the Fourth of July weekend to shut down. Then again, no one is really choosing a government shutdown. It's about to happen because a new state budget can't be agreed on by legislators and the governor.

We hope this research we've done won't be needed. We really hoped we wouldn't even have to write this, but here it is.

Government offices run by the State of Minnesota will close at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 30, and plan to stay closed until the budget impasse is resolved. State employees are having to spend much of their work days preparing for the shutdown rather than doing their particular jobs. This means that, even if the government doesn't shut down, there will be a backlog of work in many offices.

Perhaps the first thing you'll notice if/when the State closes Thursday afternoon is that you won't be able to buy a Lottery ticket. The Minnesota State Lottery is a state office, and the program will be turned off.

Let's hope you didn't schedule a camping trip to one of Minnesota's beautiful state parks this weekend. They'll all be closed. Can't get a fishing license either.

You'll still be able to launch your boat at a public landing, but the Department of Natural Resources, run by the state, won't be out protecting you or wildlife.

And don't count on rest stops along the way to wherever you're going this weekend. State-run rest stops along highways and freeways all around the state will be closed. You'd better make other arrangements.

The Minnesota Zoo is scheduled to close in the event of a shutdown.

Local impacts

Keep in mind that this state shutdown only affects state-run offices. City and county offices should stay up and running as usual. In most cases, expected state funding would be postponed by a state shutdown and cities and counties would be able financially to work around such delays.

All 32 Great River Regional Library branches will remain open and all programming continue as scheduled. (Their funding is based on a calendar year and is not yet in jeopardy.)

Area school operations will continue in summer mode. While expected July state payments may be delayed by a shutdown, reserve funds should be able to tie them over temporarily. There will be no staff cuts, and no student days will be affected unless the shutdown goes on for a long time.

Jails are run by counties, but state prisons will remain in operation. Parole officers are county employees, so parolees will not go unsupervised.

State payments to hospitals and nursing homes would not be made during a shutdown. While staffing and services may not suffer in the short-term, the impact from a long-term shutdown eventually could pose problems for both employees and patients.

St. Cloud State University will remain open. MnSCU and the State Budget Office have worked out a deal that keeps these universities running during a shutdown.

The Stearns County Licensing Center will remain open, and you can renew driver's licenses (so long as they still have the forms). You won't get a permanent replacement license until state offices re-open. You also can renew license tabs (while they have the forms).

WorkForce Centers will be closed for job searches and job training. This is deemed "non-essential."

Tuesday the Stearns County Board of Commissioners decided to continue the West-MetroCorridor Project, relying on state-certified inspectors and private contractors rather than on MnDOT.

Installations of the public restrooms in Willow Creek Park has already been delayed by the impending shutdown as there is a backup now to get required plumbing permits. It could be a month Ð plus the time of an actual shutdown - before that project can proceed.

Kimball's planned street repairs are being funded federally, by the USDA. This project will not be affected by a short-term state shutdown.

The costs of a shutdown

No matter your political stance on the issue, here are some facts that might make you feel ill.

¥ The closing of state parks represents a loss of about $1 million a week to the state, but about $12 million a week to local tourism near state parks.

¥ The Lottery takes in an average of $2.3 million a week for the state. During a shutdown that amount will be $0.

¥ Loss of income and sales tax. (As many as 36,000 state employees who are laid off won't be paying income tax, and probably won't be buying much either.)

¥ Delays in construction projects will cost valuable time and money.

¥ When unemployment claims rise, the state will have to borrow federal money to meet those claims; all that borrowed money, plus interest, must be paid back.

Benefits of a shutdown?

There is very little on the up-side of a shutdown.

¥ You won't have to pay extra to drive alone in the commuter lanes in the Metro area.

¥ You can explore your local county parks, which will stay open no matter what happens with the state. Try calling Lake Koronis Regional Park near Paynesville for campsite and camper-cabin availability; (320) 276-8843. Or call Stearns County Parks at (320) 255-6172 ext. 2 for information about their parks. Most counties have park information online too.

¥ Pawn shops and high-interest pay-day lenders could be very busy, both with people looking for loans and those looking for bargains.

Again, here's hoping that no one needs this information. In the event of a shutdown, try to get what you need done before 4 p.m. today (June 30). Just remember that you can't count on winning the Lottery to solve anything, since you may not be able to buy a ticket for awhile.