The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 22, 2011

Update: Legislators went back for pay after declining during shutdown

ST. PAUL — Eighteen Minnesota House members who declined paychecks during last month's state government shutdown got their full salaries retroactively, the House payroll office said Monday.

Eleven Democrats and seven Republicans received shutdown pay averaging $1,600 after the 20-day closure, which threw 22,000 state employees out of work, interrupted services ranging from camping in state parks to driver's license exams and shut down road projects and some social services. State employees were eligible for unemployment at a fraction of their normal pay.

Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, took the pay, but plans to repay at least part of it.

Morrow explained he is accepting pay for the post-shutdown period for “recovering my costs for legislative work in Washington D.C. in July, which primarily was to attend a higher education conference on student aid.”

He said a foundation paid some of his expense with he and his wife covering the rest and that he did not ask the state to reimbursement him for that trip.

He said after covering his out-of-pocket expenses he would return the remainder of his shutdown pay to the state.

In a statement, he said “This was the easiest way to do this from the state's perspective because I didn't know the expenses on July 1 (the conference started on July 14).”

Lawmakers were entitled to salaries when government closed for much of July, but about a third of the Legislature's 201 members told the payroll offices they didn't want to be paid. The Legislature continued operating during the shutdown, even though the Capitol and State Office Building were closed to the public. Until Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton gave up his call for higher income taxes two weeks into the shutdown, leading to a deal with Republican legislative leaders, there was little activity on the legislative calendar. Lawmakers continued constituent work and some held public meetings in their districts.

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