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Elderly care givers ask for shutdown funds

ST. PAUL -- A group representing nursing homes and other health-care providers for Minnesota's elderly asked the courts today to keep state funding flowing in case of a government shutdown.

Aging Services of Minnesota and Care Providers of Minnesota filed paperwork in Ramsey County District Court to allow payments for 29,000 Minnesotans in nursing homes and 26,000 others who receive care in assisted living facilities or their homes. Gov. Mark Dayton last week asked the court to let those people receive care, but he would not pay the care providers.

"Gov. Dayton and the Legislature are approximately $20 million apart with respect to the older adult services portions of the budget," said Gayle Kvenvold, president of Aging Services of Minnesota. "We continue to hope that this gap can be bridged and a shutdown can be avoided. But in the event of a shutdown, our petition is intended to protect Minnesota seniors from the potentially devastating effects of defunding their care."

About 112,600 people who provide care for the elderly could be at risk, the providers say.

The organizations side with Attorney General Lori Swanson, who a week ago asked the court to allow a broader range of payments continue than did Dayton.

Dayton last week asked the courts to keep 13,250 of the executive branch's state employees on the job if he and the lawmakers cannot agree on a new budget by the time the current one ends on June 30. But he did not recommend funding care providers during a shutdown.

Judge Kathleen Gearin plans to hear arguments on the case Thursday, but there is no indication when decisions will be made.

In the meantime, some legislators say they plan to file a lawsuit claiming that the courts have no jurisdiction on spending matters. They argue that the state Constitution requires the Legislature appropriate all spending.

The shutdown would come about if there is no budget deal, and there was no movement in that direction this morning.

There have been no high-level budget talks since Thursday, when Republican legislative leaders gave Democrat Dayton a proposal that would have eliminated $200 million in tax cuts and spent that in other programs. Dayton immediately rejected it.

GOP leaders this morning told reporters that they are waiting on Dayton to make a move.

"What we need now is the governor to come to the table ... with a substantive offer," Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said.

Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said they and Dayton are near agreement on several budget areas, so they should be passed in a special legislative session while work continues on tougher areas, such as funding health and human services programs.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.