ST. CLOUD — Most Minnesota legislators will collect state paychecks this month, even as failure to reach a budget deal has brought state government to a halt.
Meanwhile, more than 20,000 state workers faced layoffs during the state government shutdown that began Friday.
The shutdown is happening because lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton didn't complete their chief task for the 2011 session: reaching terms on the state's next budget. The shutdown will last until a budget is approved.
In the meantime, more than two-thirds of legislators will collect state pay this month, according to information obtained by the Times through information requests to House and Senate fiscal staff.
Legislators are paid annual salaries of $31,140 in monthly installments. They also qualify for other compensation, such as per-diem and mileage reimbursement. Non-metro legislators may claim lodging reimbursement for quarters near the Capitol.
Some area lawmakers say they'll continue to claim reimbursements during a shutdown, while others say they'll forgo it.
One legislator said he simply isn't sure he can afford to pass up his legislative salary during a shutdown.
Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph, has a reason for that: He says he's being laid off from his other job as a social worker because of the shutdown.
Hosch works for Independent Lifestyles, a Central Minnesota nonprofit agency that serves people with disabilities. It receives state funds, part of which may be cut off during a shutdown, Independent Lifestyles executive director Cara Ruff told the Times.
"It's personal, the shutdown," Hosch said. "I definitely am seeing the effects of it, it seems, from every corner of my life."
Legislators were given a choice about whether to accept their July paycheck, which was issued Friday.
In the House, 47 of 134 members opted to defer their July paycheck, according to House fiscal staff. Those legislators may choose to collect the salary later or forsake it entirely.
Hosch and the remaining House members are being paid. In the Senate, 14 of 66 members opted not to receive their July salary during a shutdown, according to Senate fiscal staff.
Eileen Lunzer, a spokeswoman for the Senate Fiscal Services office, said senators who opted not to receive their salary won't be able to claim it at a later date.
Other states are using the threat of docking legislators' pay as a prod for progress in budget negotiations. California voters last year passed a measure that docks state lawmakers' pay if they don't pass a budget by the state's constitutional deadline.
Dayton, a multimillionaire department-store heir, released a statement last month saying he wouldn't accept his salary during a state shutdown.
Although Hosch is receiving his July paycheck, he says he's sympathetic to the argument that legislators shouldn't get paid during a shutdown. He says he'll try not to cash his July paycheck, but stopped short of pledging it.
"I'm going to do everything that I can to refuse payment," Hosch said. "If a situation arises and my family, who is affected by my decisions, needs me to reconsider, I will do that."
Hosch said he doesn't plan to take per-diem or other reimbursement during a shutdown.