ST. PAUL (AP) - Minnesota's highest court has dismissed a petition from four Republican state senators seeking to prevent the judicial branch from authorizing state spending in a government shutdown.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the matter properly belongs before a lower court.

Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin is scheduled to hold the first hearing Thursday in a shutdown case brought by Attorney General Lori Swanson.

The senators have also filed paperwork in that case, outlining their position that court-ordered funding for critical services would violate the constitutional separation of powers.

A host of other groups are asking Gearin to keep their funding flowing, including the League of Minnesota Cities. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman says cities would have trouble keeping police and firefighters on the job if state aid dries up.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)