36,000 state employees are given notice

by T.W. Budig

ECM Capitol reporter

Letters went out to 36,000 state employees last Friday (June 10) notifying them that they would be laid off or placed on involuntary, unpaid leave of absence on July 1 unless otherwise notified.

The mass mailing is an offshoot of the state budget standoff at the State Capitol between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders over the upcoming two-year state budget.

Current state funding will run out at the end of the June, leaving all state agencies, with the exception of agriculture, without funding.

Dayton and Republican leaders are at loggerheads over spending, taxation and other issues relating to the new two-year state budget.

In a statement, Dayton noted the layoff notices had been sent.

“It is a grim reminder of a deadline that is just 20 days away, and the reality of what a lack of compromise and agreement will mean not only for those thousands of hard-working state employees, their families and their communities, but also for the important services they provide to Minnesotans in every corner of our state,” he said.

With the exception of the agriculture finance bill, the governor vetoed all of the budget bills the Republican-controlled legislature sent him.

Dayton Chief of Staff Tina Smith explained the looming state government shutdown would be different than the historic 2005 shutdown that occurred during the Pawlenty Administration.

“(There’s) really isn’t a clear precedent of the situation we find ourselves in now,” she said.

That’s because back in 2005, Pawlenty and lawmakers had succeeded in passing a number of budget bills.

And that’s not the case now.

This afternoon Smith and Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter met with fellow state commissioners to discussion budget negotiations and shutdown contingency planning. “Everything in state government is being considered (for shutdown) because of the nature of the lack of funding,” said Schowalter, appearing along with Smith to speak with reporters after the meeting.

The Dayton Administration looks to health and public safety as its top priorities in the event of a shutdown.

Schowalter and Smith would not speculate on which state agencies, or which state functions, would actually discontinue.

It’s expected the administration will petition the court for a ruling on which state services should be considered critical services, and therefore must remain open.

Back during the 2005 shutdown some of the state services that closed, or partially closed, included state parks.

The administration has no set time at this point to file a petition, the two officials indicated.

Indeed, Smith stressed the need for on-going budget negotiations. “This does not have to happen,” she said of the state government shutdown.

In statements, Republican leaders lamented that layoff notices had been sent.

“Governor Dayton promised voters he would not shut down government, yet state workers were sent layoff notices today,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo. “Republicans delivered a responsible, balanced budget to the Governor’s desk in May, but he vetoed it,” she said.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, also expressed regret.

“I implore Governor Dayton to continue working with us to reach a final budget solution before June 30,” he said.


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