Minnesota House and Senate Employees Face Layoffs
Minnesota’s House and Senate employees are facing the threat of mass layoffs because of a political impasse between Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who is a Democrat, and the state lawmakers, who are predominantly Republican.
The deadlock between the two sides resulted after Dayton vetoed legislative funding to the Minnesota House and Senate controlled by the Republicans. The governor’s veto will stop their funding for the next two years. Dayton resorted to this measure after being forced to make a choice between approving a tax cut bill or closing down the state’s Department of Revenue.
The governor’s threat to shut down the legislature could result in hundreds of layoffs—the most that the state of Minnesota would see since 2015. The layoffs could hurt as many as 230 employees in the Minnesota House and 204 employees in the Senate. Those numbers exclude the 201 elected representatives.
Governor Dayton has exercised his veto to force the Republicans to negotiate on the budget bills proposed for the state. “The legislative leaders have the ability to come to the special session and resolve matters, so those layoffs won’t occur,” said Dayton.
Republican leaders in the legislative branch have filed a lawsuit against Dayton’s veto. They have urged the court to restore the two-year funding of $129.0 million that Dayton has vetoed.
Dayton is countering their allegations, saying that the Republican lawmakers are suggesting policy measures which are equivalent to “putting a gun to the head of the executive branch.” Dayton also said that the Republicans are coercive, in that—if their budget proposal is not approved—they are going to force a shutdown.
Dayton warned that there were similar events in 2011, when the Minnesota government had to shut down for 20 days and temporarily lay off nearly 19,000 government employees.
If the deadlock continues beyond July 1, when the state funding is going to expire, the Senate and House will have to use their reserve funds to pay staffers. The Minnesota House has $8.3 million in reserves, just enough to pay employees for about 12 weeks, while the Senate has about $4.0 million in reserves, which can keep them going for about six weeks.
“Reality Check: The Budget Impasse & Legislative Layoffs,” CBS Minnesota, June 12, 2017.
“Legislature sues Dayton over budget cut,” Minnesota Public Radio, June 13, 2017.
“Minnesota’s 2011 partial shutdown offers glimpse of what WV can expect,” Charleston Gazette-Mail, May 3, 2017.