State officials still assessing shutdown impact on Minnesota

Jim Schowalter

WASHINGTON — State budget officials said Wednesday they’re still trying to assess the impact a federal government shutdown might have on Minnesota.

More than 18,000 Minnesotans work for the federal government, but an additional 3,000 state employees are federally-funded, and Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said state agencies are asking their federal counterparts when those workers would need to be furloughed, if at all. If so, the workers would need to receive three-weeks notice before they’re left off the job.

Tina Smith, Gov. Mark Dayton’s Chief of Staff, said the shutdown could hit workers at the Department of Education, or Minnesota meat inspectors, workforce centers or assistance programs for the poor, like Women, Infants and Children. If that were to happen, the state doesn’t have the ability to step in and fund operations in the meantime.

Smith said the best-case scenario would be lawmakers in Washington ending the impasse.

“Nobody should think that when an important federal partner stops paying its bills that it will not have an impact on the state of Minnesota, because it will,” Smith said. “We are very eager for the Congress to come to some resolution on this issue.”

Twin Cities 74th in federal workers nationally

Minnesota has a low percentage of federal workers relative to other parts of the country. The Washington Post crunched the numbers and found just 1.9 percent of the Twin Cities’ 1.7 million workers are federal employees, 74th in the country. Metro areas with an especially large military presence  — like Colorado Springs and Virginia Beach — are hit especially hard, as is the District of Columbia.

The Minnesota National Guard has already furloughed nearly 1,100 workers, Adjutant General Rick Nash said, though he said the shutdown “will not impact our ability to respond to a man-made or natural disaster.”

Schowalter said a short shutdown would have a marginal impact on state economic growth, though if it drags on, “there could be an impact on the state and local economy,” he said.

“It will be an evolving situation,” he said. “The problem we know about today may not be the problems we have to respond to tomorrow.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com.

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