Judge Rules Which Services Continue Under Shutdown

Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled Wednesday that certain core or essential government services will continue to operate if a state budget deal is not reached by midnight on Thursday, forcing the government to shutdown.

A Ramsey County judge ruled on Wednesday that some core or essential government services will continue to operate even if a state budget deal not reached, forcing a government shutdown at midnight on Thursday.

Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin agreed with Governor Mark Dayton's recommendations that he released earlier this month outlining which agencies should continue offering services with limited staff during a government shutdown-and which should cease operations altogether.

In her ruling, Gearin said that services were defined as “core” or “essential” if they provide for national security, provide payments under contractual obligations, or protect life and property.

Under that definition, she ruled that certain state programs-including the food stamp and Medicaid programs-need to continue because the state has entered into numerous agreements with the federal government that require it to make payments, and it would violate the U.S. Constitution if it didn't abide by those agreements.

“Budget impasses in the absence of state funding appropriations do not permit a state to forego its obligation to fund certain federal programs,” she wrote.

In her order, Gearin noted that numerous motions have been filed that represent many programs, agencies, and businesses that will be “adversely impacted” by a shutdown, but she said that the court will not rule to keep any additional services up and running under the shutdown because “the court believes that the negative impact of a government shutdown on these programs does not justify a court in over-extending its authority.”

As a result of Gearin's rulings, many Minnesota businesses will be forced to close during the shutdown, including Canterbury Park and Running Aces-which are regulated by the Minnesota Racing Commission-and the Minnesota Zoo.

Gearin stated in her order that the only critical core functions of the Minnesota Zoo are feeding the animals, and keeping the animals, the exhibits, and the zoo property safe, secure, and healthy. She added that it is also necessary to fund staff that is needed to make sure that none of the animals can escape and become a danger to the public.

“The court recognizes that this will cause significant harm to the zoo as the [Fourth] of July weekend and the rest of the summer are the busiest times of the year,” she wrote.

A government shutdown would cost Canterbury Park in Shakopee more than $1 million each week and force it to furlough its 1,000-plus employees, CEO Randy Sampson told Twin Cities Business earlier this month. The park announced Wednesday that it has moved up two races that were scheduled for this weekend to ensure that they are completed before the possible shutdown.

On Wednesday afternoon, Governor Dayton released the following statement in reaction to Gearin's order: “While I am still reviewing Chief Judge Gearin's order, it appears that her order arrived at the same middle ground as my administration, and essentially agreed with my list of critical services that must continue . . . I arrived at that list with a heavy heart, knowing full well the important role that government plays in the everyday success of Minnesota's citizens and businesses.”

He added, “Let me be clear: I would much prefer to find a fair and balanced budget solution, rather than a government shutdown. I am continuing to work toward a compromise needed to move forward.”