ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Tens of thousands of state of Minnesota employees received layoff notices that their jobs could be in jeopardy should the Legislature not agree to and pass a budget at the end of the month.
Lawmakers at the state capitol adjourned last month without sorting out the details of a $52 billion two-year budget or finding compromise on key policy proposals within the split legislative body. Leaders promised that come mid-June for a special session, the work would be complete.READ MORE: Andy Slavitt, Fmr. Biden Advisor, Pens Book On What U.S. 'Could Have Done Better' In COVID Response
But now as the clock ticks into the final month of the fiscal year, there’s preparation for the worst case scenario: a government shutdown that would leave state employees laid off or on unpaid leaves of absence until state agencies are funded.
“For the Legislature to not do its job at this point and pass a budget, it’s really an insult to the dedicated public servants who have worked nonstop over the last fifteen months,” said Megan Dayton, president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, the second largest union representing state employees.
Dayton, who is a state demographer for the Minnesota State Demographic Center, and more than 37,000 others working in state government received messages over the weekend of a potential for a shutdown impacting their jobs.
In a letter sent to all state employees in all agencies, Gov. Tim Walz reiterated the possibility and apologized for the “stress and uncertainty” of the situation. But he remains optimistic that their jobs will be secure.
“I am hopeful that this process is just a formality and the Legislature will agree to a budget before the next biennium before July 1,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, we are obligated to notify you of this possibility.”
“I will continue to do everything I can to reach a balanced budget agreement in time to avert a shutdown,” he vowed.READ MORE: Minnesota Senate Passes Higher Education Budget Unanimously
Legislative leaders Melissa Hortman, who is Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka also reiterated their commitment to passing a budget so state employees won’t face a similar fate to those who worked for the state of Minnesota in 2005 and 2011 when the government previously shut down.
Ten years ago, the shutdown lasted for 20 days and in 2005, it was a partial shutdown lasting two weeks. In 2001, the Legislature narrowly dodged it.
“Senator Gazelka and Governor Walz and I are all committed to getting a budget done on time for the people of Minnesota so there’s no interruption in government services,” Hortman said in an interview Monday.
Gazelka has previously floated the idea of a “lights on” budget—one that keeps funding at current levels temporarily—in order to avert suspension of some government operations.
Still, the promise to pass a budget by June 30 falls short for Dayton, who said drawn out negotiations while her job hangs in the balance is “frustrating.”
“My husband and I are both state employees and so we would go to absolutely zero income in the event of a state government shutdown,” she said. “It’s really scary.”MORE NEWS: With 10 Days Left In Special Session, Legislators Still Have Plenty Of Work To Do
Anyone on layoff or unpaid leave status would not receive pay for the time on layoff or unpaid leave, a letter from the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget says. Some employees, though, may be eligible for unemployment benefits and could file July 1.