5 things: The special session and looming layoffs

Legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton are in the process of deciding when to hold a special session, an extension of the 2015 legislative session to work out the details of three budget bills Dayton vetoed.

If lawmakers can't work out their differences on education, jobs and energy, and agriculture and environment funding bills by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the state will face a partial government shutdown. The spending in the bills accounts for about 43 percent of the state's two-year general fund budget.

In the meantime, government workers will start getting layoff notices on June 1.

Here are five things you need to know about the next few weeks:

1. Why is a special session necessary?

When the special session is called, it will actually be something of a formality.

Over the next few weeks - and likely behind closed doors - Dayton and legislative leaders will renegotiate the details of three major budget bills. When they have an agreement, they will call legislators back to St. Paul to vote on them.

Without agreement on those bills by June 30, which marks the end of the fiscal year, some state agencies will shutter because the Legislature and governor have not allocated money for them to continue operating for the new biennium.

2. Why are some government workers getting layoff notices?

With Dayton's vetoes, the Legislature effectively ended the official 2015 legislative session without finishing its work - and left several departments without funding for fiscal year 2016 and 2017 as a result.

Right now, that means there's no money to continue paying roughly 10,000 employees scattered across the departments of education, natural resources, commerce, economic development and others. Those workers will be getting layoff notices on June 1, telling them that in  30 days their positions will no longer be funded.

3. Does that mean those workers won't show up for work on June 2?

No, because the fiscal year doesn't end until midnight on June 30. That's the drop-dead deadline for legislators to work out their differences and for Dayton sign the budget bills. If the bills aren't signed on July 1, that's when those employees would have to stay home.

4. What if Dayton and lawmakers can't come to an agreement?

If not, the state faces a partial government shutdown, which will look something like the 2011 shutdown but on a much smaller scale.

For instance, the state would have to cut off payments to schools, though a court order could continue those payments. Most schools would remain open, except those that rely on all their funding from the state. And school staff could face layoffs.

Meanwhile, school officials say the impasse has created headaches as they try to budget for the coming school year.

Because the Department of Natural Resources would be affected as well, summertime vacationers could face state park closures and difficulty getting permits.

It's also likely a skeleton crew of employees would remain at the affected departments. But it remains to be seen which jobs are considered essential. Minnesota Management and Budget would have to submit a petition to the courts outlining what it believes are critical services, but it's ultimately up to a judge.

Right now, MMB is collecting information from the affected departments to come up with their court petition, which will likely be submitted to the courts in mid-June.

5. What if Dayton and legislators reach an agreement before June 30?

Then those layoff notices are null, and there's no government shutdown.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.