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Dayton seeks some continued services, budget mediation

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton wants courts to order mediation to solve the state budget impasse and if that does not work asked that what he considers critical state programs be allowed to continue operation even without a budget.

Dayton today filed paperwork in Ramsey County District Court seeking to allow some state government operations to continue if there is no budget passed by July 1 and there is a government shutdown. The state constitution says the Legislature must appropriate money before it can be spent, but Dayton wants the courts to allow some spending anyway.

The Democratic governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature have not agreed on a budget for the next two years.

The governor's request to the courts was for minimal services to continue, with the most emphasis placed on human services programs ranging from treating sex offenders to continuing health-care programs for the poor, disabled and elderly. In all, the Department of Human Services would keep 5,165 people on the payroll.

Dayton also asks the courts to keep the courts running, guards to be on duty in state prisons, troopers to patrol highways and tax collections to continue.

"I consider virtually all services provided by the state to be essential, and all of them have been established by previous governors and legislatures to serve and benefit people throughout Minnesota," Dayton said, but he recommends closing many state programs ranging from the lottery to the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals.

He suggests that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system remains open. It has enough money saved up to run through the fall term, but needs support from Minnesota Management and Budget to make payments.

"My decisions were not based upon personal preferences or policy considerations," Dayton said. "Rather, they were instructed by the words of the Minnesota Constitution, which I took an oath of office to uphold, and ensuing case law."

Dayton also asks the court to order that he and legislative leaders engage in mediation to help resolve differences before a July 1 shutdown. Republicans leaders already have rejected a similar request.

"My evaluation of critical services has persuaded me even more deeply that a shutdown would have catastrophic consequences for a great many people throughout our state," Dayton said. "I remain fully committed to doing everything I can to reach a balanced compromise with the Legislature on a fair and balanced budget before July 1 in order to avoid a shutdown."

Democrat Dayton and Republican legislative leaders tentatively planned to meet later today to discuss the budget.

On Monday, Attorney General Lori Swanson filed paperwork in Ramsey County District Court seeking permission to fund programs that affect "the life, health, safety and liberty" of Minnesotans even if there is no state budget. Dayton's Wednesday court filing is a follow up on that, but there was no immediate indication about when a court hearing could come.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.