State plans to shut down

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

ST. PAUL (AP) &045; New drivers wouldn’t be able to get licenses, thousands of public campsites and picnic areas would off limits and highway rest areas would close, under a government shutdown scenario described Wednesday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Meanwhile, school aid checks would go out, people enrolled in government health programs would keep their benefits and food and nursing home inspections would continue.

The Republican governor released a list of state functions that would probably continue and those that would likely cease if lawmakers fail to complete their budget work by June 30.

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&uot;We’re not trying to overly alarm people, but they have to know what to prepare for,&uot; Pawlenty said.

While some budget bills have passed, negotiations on the others have stalled during talks involving Pawlenty and the leaders of the Republican-controlled House and the DFL-led Senate.

The main sticking points have been spending on education and health insurance for the working poor, and how to pay for the increasing costs of both.

Pawlenty’s announcement came hours after Attorney General Mike Hatch filed papers with a judge to begin building a safety net for critical services.

The court filing seeks input from state and local government leaders on what should be deemed an essential services.

&uot;We have erred on the side of keeping things open because we want to minimize the difficulty, the hurt, the inconvenience or the pain,&uot; Pawlenty said.

He said he tried to protect services that relate to health, safety and welfare of citizens.

Pawlenty’s list isn’t the final word. It will be up to the judge and subsequent court challenges to determine what it covers. Also, the Legislature could head it off by passing its remaining budget bills.

And there are gray areas.

For instance, Pawlenty said his administration would seek to continue existing road construction projects, an about-face from a projection earlier in the week that 175 projects would be full swing