With less than four days to go until the current Minnesota budget expires, a state government shutdown is looking more and more likely. If Governor Dayton and the legislature fail to reach an agreement on spending by the end of the day on June 30, most state agencies will find themselves without the statutory authority to continue operating. A shutdown would severely limit the availability of many basic services, like education and health care, that Minnesotans rely on.
What would a government shutdown mean for Minnesota’s environment and the people who enjoy it?
If a budget does not pass, all state parks will close at 4 PM on June 30, and remain closed for the duration of the shutdown. According to the Department of Natural Resources, all restrooms and park buildings will be locked and the grounds will be closed to camping. Forest campgrounds will also be closed, although state trails and public water access points will remain open for day use.
With the Fourth of July weekend fast approaching, the timing for park visitors could not be worse. Up to 90,000 Minnesotans are planning to visit a state park over the holiday weekend. The DNR has waived cancellation fees for park visitors with reservations between June 30 and July 14, and full refunds will be available once the shutdown ends.
Because the DNR offices will be closed, the sale of all hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses will be suspended for the duration of the government shutdown. Nevertheless, all license laws will remain in effect, and the enforcement of conservation laws will continue. Anyone hoping to hunt or fish during the government shutdown must purchase a license before the DNR closes on June 30. Because the shutdown will continue as long as the state government fails to pass a budget, hunters and anglers are advised to plan ahead.
Mass transit will continue to operate, using reserve funding and the money received from customer fares. The Star Tribune estimates that Metro Transit can keep buses and trains rolling for at least a month without state funding. Dial-a-ride service and Metro Mobility will also continue to run, as well as bus lines operated by the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and other suburban providers.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will also suspend most of its services and programs during a government shutdown. Even in the absence of a state budget, certain government services will be allowed to continue operating if they are essential for public health, safety, and the statewide economy. For the MPCA, the Dayton administration has identified only a few essential services: maintaining safety and health equipment at four closed landfills and seven superfund sites, monitoring air quality, and responding to environmental emergencies.
No one knows yet exactly which services will be provided by the DNR and the MPCA in the event of a shutdown. The Dayton administration has prepared a list of state government services it deems to be “critical.” This week, a Ramsey District Court judge will decide whether to accept Dayton’s recommendations or appoint an independent mediator to choose which state services must continue during a shutdown.
We will continue to monitor the negotiations in St. Paul, and we’ll keep hoping that Dayton and Republican leaders in the state legislature reach an agreement before July 1 — for the sake of Minnesotans and their environment.