Last reviewed September 2023
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
State Government Shutdowns
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
The past several decades have seen some tough economic times and challenging budget decisions for Minnesota state policymakers. In 2001, a shutdown of state government was averted at the last moment while 2005 saw a partial shutdown that lasted for almost two weeks. In 2011, a government shutdown began on July 1, 2011 and lasted for 20 days. The Legislative Library created a searchable database for the 2011 shutdown documents. The database includes court documents extending appropriations during the shutdown.
A state government shutdown impacts the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of Minnesota government - and indeed, all Minnesotans. Retired Ramsey County District Court judge Kathleen Gearin has offered some fascinating insight into the involvement of the courts in government shutdown proceedings in her recent article, "The 'Law of Ramsey County'–Reflections of a Trial Judge on State Government Gridlock" (Mitchell Hamline Law Review, Vol. 45 no. 2, 2019).
There have been ongoing legislative efforts in Minnesota to pass a law that would ensure continuing appropriations in the event of future budget stalemates. A 2019 Minnesota House Research Department report, Automatic Continuing Appropriations and Government Shutdowns, explores how broad automatic continuing appropriations laws function in other states and how a similar law might operate in Minnesota. Minnesota legislative bills related to automatic continuing appropriations, introduced between 2005 and 2019, are detailed in the report's appendix.
Another factor in future state government shutdown considerations is the 2017 Minnesota Supreme Court decision, Ninetieth Minnesota State Senate vs. Mark B. Dayton, that makes court-ordered funding upon a future shutdown highly unlikely. As rumors of a shutdown occurred in 2021, local journalist Peter Callaghan explained why a state shutdown would be particularly problematic in this article, "A state government shutdown in Minnesota this year wouldn’t just be pretty bad. It would be very, very, very bad" (MinnPost, May 27, 2021).
This guide links to materials that document the shutdown activities of the Minnesota legislature, governor, state agencies, and courts during the 2001, 2005, and 2011 shutdown negotiations.
2011 Minnesota Shutdown
The Legislative Library has compiled a collection of news articles about the 2011 government shutdown. Arranged chronologically and compiled in notebooks, the articles provide an excellent timeline and documentation of the 2011 shutdown. The notebooks are available in the Library.
The Legislative Library has also created a searchable database for 2011 Shutdown Documents. The database contains 250 documents including letters to state employees, Governor’s recommendations, budget compromises, and court documents.
House Press Conference and Senate Press Conference
Session Daily (House Public Information Services)
2011/2012 meeting archives (Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy)
Recommended Priority One and Priority Two Critical Services: 2011 Potential Minnesota Government Shutdown. Statewide Contingency Response Team, Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, Jim Schowalter, Chair. June 15, 2011.
Recommended Statewide Objectives: 2011 Potential Minnesota Government Shutdown. Statewide Contingency Response Team, Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, Jim Schowalter, Chair. June 15, 2011.
State Government Shutdown Executive Summary. Minnesota Management & Budget, October 2011. (See p. 4 of the report for a timeline of the shutdown.) HJ2053.M6 S74 2011
State Government Shutdown: Internal Controls and Compliance Audit, Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. Office of the Legislative Auditor, State of Minnesota, 2012. HJ9865 .A27 12-12
Access to selected court documents is provided in the following list. In addition, a comprehensive collection of 2011 shutdown materials, including court documents and negotiation letters, has been compiled by the Legislative Library.
In re: Temporary Funding of Core Functions of the Executive Branch of the State of Minnesota (Second District Court 62-CV-11-5203):
- Minnesota Attorney General: Petition, Memorandum, and Motion for Order to Show Cause filed with Ramsey County District Court, Second Judicial District, June 13, 2011.
- Response of the Governor to the Petition of the Attorney General filed June 15, 2011.
- Findings of Fact, Conclusion of Law, and Order Granting Motion for Temporary Funding and Order Amending Finding of Fact Number 36 (MN Zoo funding) filed June 29, 2011.
- Governor's Proposed First Report and Recommendations of the Special Master filed July 4, 2011.
In re: Temporary Funding of Core Functions of the Judicial Branch of the State of Minnesota (Second District Court 62-CV-11-5361):
In re: State Senator Warren Limmer, et al. vs. Lori Swanson in her official capacity as Attorney General, et al. (Minnesota Supreme Court A11-1107):
- Petition for Writ of Quo Warranto (June 20, 2011)
- Attorney General's Motion to Dismiss (June 20, 2011)
- Order (June 21, 2011)
- Governor's Joinder (June 22, 2011)
- Request to File Amicus Brief (June 22, 2011)
- Petitioner's Response to Motion to Dismiss (June 22, 2011)
- Order to Dismiss (June 22, 2011)
- Emergency Motion of the Governor to Consolidate and Stay Proceedings Pending Consolidation (June 29, 2011)
- Emergency Motion of the Governor: Declaration of James Schowalter (June 30, 2011)
- Attorney General's Motion to Consolidate (June 30, 2011)
- House of Representative's Response to Governor's Motion to Consolidate (June 30, 2011)
- Senate's Response to Governor's Motion to Consolidate (June 30, 2011)
- Canterbury Park Holding Corporation's Response to Governor's Motion to Consolidate (June 30, 2011)
- Minnesota Harness Racing, Inc./North Metro Harness Initiative, LLC, Response to Governor's Motion to Consolidate (June 30, 2011)
- Order to Consolidate Shutdown Litigation Filed in District Courts (June 30, 2011)
In re: State Senator Warren Limmer, et al. vs. Lori Swanson in her official capacity as Attorney General, et al. (Minnesota Supreme Court A11-1222):
2005 Minnesota Shutdown
The Library has compiled a notebook of materials related to the 2005 shutdown. The notebook is available in the Library; legislators and legislative staff can access the contents online.
Potential 2005 State Government Shutdown Documents. Compiled by the Legislative Library. HJ2053.M6 O68 2005
Power of the Purse in Minnesota. Peter Wattson, Senate Counsel, 2007. HJ7599 .W38 2007
Senate Budget Negotiation Videos (Minnesota Senate Media Services) - Scroll down to the June 2005 events.
Writ of Quo Warranto Litigation (2005-2007) - A summary by the Legislative Library.
2001 Minnesota Shutdown Planning
State Shutdown Coordinating Team Announces "Critical Services" to be Continued in Event of a Government Shutdown. St. Paul: Minnesota Shutdown Communications Center, 2001. JK6160.P44 S73 2001
Materials Regarding Potential 2001 Government Shutdown. St. Paul, 2001. Selected court documents, compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Library. HJ2053.M6 M38 2001
Shutdowns in Other States
Funding Gaps and Shutdowns in the Federal Government. History, Art & Archives United States House of Representatives.
Government Shutdown in the United States. Wikipedia. (Includes information on both federal and state government shutdowns.)
"Late State Budgets." Brief (NCSL), updated July 1, 2020.