Layoff notices make shutdown real

More than 40,000 may be jobless if no agreement is reached on a state budget.

Megan Nicolai

If the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton cannot reach a budget agreement by June 30, more than 36,000 state employees and 6,000 employees from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities  may be jobless.

Forty-two thousand people were sent layoff notices last week.

The layoffs, which go into effect July 1, are technically permanent, but government officials are working on a way to recall employees when the government reopens, said John Pollard, spokesman for Minnesota Management and Budget .

âÄúUnfortunately we donâÄôt have a lot of specific answers yet to a lot of the questions that are out there because we are very much in the middle of the process,âÄù Pollard said. The state also instituted a hiring freeze for its executive branch.

As part of their union agreement, MnSCU employees were sent notices 21 days before the possible shutdown, said spokeswoman Melinda Voss.

âÄúWe remain optimistic, however, that the Legislature and the governor will come to a budget agreement by June 30,âÄù Voss said. âÄúThe [MnSCU Board of Trustees] is committed to doing anything it can to keep the Minnesota state colleges and universities open.âÄù

MnSCU has funds to continue operating through the summer and fall semesters, but cannot access the funds without MMBâÄôs permission. MnSCU is looking to arrange access to those funds to prevent further layoffs, Voss said.

The University of Minnesota has no plans to close services or lay off employees if a shutdown occurs, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the UniversityâÄôs chief financial officer.

âÄúAt this point, itâÄôs impractical to shut the University down,âÄù Pfutzenreuter said. âÄúWe can weather a storm in the short-term.âÄù

The University may need to lay off some employees if a shutdown extends into the fall, Pfutzenreuter said. Those layoffs would likely be temporary.

âÄúWeâÄôve sent the signals to employees that the University is staying open for business,âÄù Pfutzenreuter said.

University President Robert Bruininks sent faculty an email June 6 offering his assurance that unexpected job losses would be kept to a minimum.

âÄúI am confident we can navigate these challenges especially if they are short-lived,âÄù Bruininks wrote.

MinnesotaâÄôs Constitution says state funds cannot be used unless they are appropriated by the stateâÄôs budget. Since the bills for the 2012-13 biennium have not yet been signed into law, state officials and agencies have no access to their funds or authorization to spend money.

 Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson  issued a court filing Monday to request that essential services be kept open and operating in Minnesota during a shutdown, including prison and health care systems.

 âÄú[T]he life, health, safety, and liberty of citizens would be profoundly and irreparably impacted,âÄù Swanson wrote in the court filing. Gov. Dayton is expected to file his version of the petition this week.

A government shutdown this year would dwarf the stateâÄôs partial shutdown in 2005, when roughly 9,000 state employees were laid off. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature agreed on the five remaining budget bills July 9, just eight days after the shutdown began.