Lillie Proposes Plan To End Government Shutdowns

Joined by other GOP lawmakers on Thursday, the senator who represents Woodbury said the measure would revert state spending to previous levels in the event of a budget impasse.

A group of Republican lawmakers today announced a plan that would effectively end state government shutdowns.

Under the proposal, if a budget agreement isn’t reached by the end of the legislative session, funding for state services would continue at previous levels.

Twelve other states have similar laws on the books, said Sen. Ted Lillie, who was joined by Sen. Paul Gazelka, Sen. Ted Daley and Rep. Kathy Lohmer during a 15-minute press conference at the Capitol on July 21.

The plan—similar to a bill Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon proposed as a state senator in 2006—has several permutations, including reverting state spending to 80-100 percent of previous levels or enacting the measure through a constitutional amendment.

The longest government shutdown in Minnesota history ended Wednesday when Gov. Mark Dayton .

“It is time to do something like this,” Lillie said.

The message from lawmakers was clear.

“No more Minnesota shutdowns,” Daley said several times.

The concern is that the measure could create an environment in which there is no incentive to reach a budget deal, especially for legislators opposed to increased spending.

Lillie acknowledged that possibility, but maintained that it would be better than closing state parks, putting 22,000 and disrupting construction projects throughout Minnesota.

“I don’t see this as an incentive not to negotiate,” he said, adding later: “We’re trying to take the politics out of this.”

The plan has not been presented to DFL leaders or the governor. The proposal would likely be presented early during the 2012 legislative session.

“I agree that we need to take measures to prevent future government shutdowns. That’s why we are proposing legislation that would continue appropriations at the spending level from the previous biennium should the Legislature and the governor find themselves at an impasse. This will keep Minnesotans employed and critical services will continue to be delivered,” Gazelka said in a statement.

Daley said the plan would also send a message to capital markets and those considering investing in Minnesota: “Minnesota is the place that works.”

He also said the bill would put the decision on how to fund state services back in the hands of the Legislature rather than the judicial branch, where a judge determined what was "essential" during the shutdown.

C July 21, 2011 at 09:58 PM
It would take a constitutional amendment to achieve this purpose now for future bienniums. A law would violate our current constitution. A constitutional amendment would be a bad idea because automatically locking the state into the numbers of a previous budget doesn't account for the changing needs of the state. Also, it would allow the House, the Senate, or the Governor, to independently implement the previous biennium's budget (if any one of the three "bodies" refused to pass a new budget, the old one would be in effect). That would completely undermine our democratic process to have just on body determine the budget rather than all three as is currently required. If these legislators are serious about this and not just trying to score political points, they could wait and introduce a "lights on" bill at the beginning of the 2013 session for the next biennium. Get it passed in the first week. Then the House, Senate, and Governor would have to approve the bill and it would just apply to that particular session and that particular budget. That would preserve the process while still helping to avoid a crippling shutdown.
Krista Boston July 21, 2011 at 10:55 PM
@Chris...Not sure i agree that an amendment is needed. A bill could be passed that allows for appropriations to be at the same level as per the spending requirements of the constitution. Also if that is the case what the heck...why were things "essential"...that language can be overcome i think. It seems to be able to be overcome with bizarre lists from the commissioners, balloons and strings... But I'll mull that over. With that said, I was just about to email Senator Lillie and Representative Kieffer and ask them what ideas they had to prevent this in the future when I read this. All i have to say is CHEERS to Senator Lillie. Way to step up for goodness sake - he did score political points with me. I will also be asking Representative Kieffer to lead or co sponsor this approach in the house. I am very pleased that they doing what they can to help us having to avoid this quite challenging situation again. Putting time and effort behind the words. Excellent.
Rachel H July 21, 2011 at 11:37 PM
In a perfect world, I would much prefer to see a budget by budget lights on bill if necessary. However, I back Sen. Lillie et al because the shutdown was a perfect example of how a lights on bill was an option, but could not be accomplished. Our legislators & gov were in special session later than 3 am to finalize the budget bills and I sincerely commend all of them for their work. Thank you!
Kris Janisch July 22, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Wish we could have these kinds of productive discussions on every story. Thanks guys.


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