Delay in reaching finalized budget worries state workers

Many expected political squabbling to slow down a solution, but delays in reaching a finalized budget worry some of the roughly 22,000 state workers who remain laid off.

The details of the budget framework Gov. Dayton and GOP legislative leaders reached have not been coming together as quickly as planned. Since the two sides announced a compromise last Thursday, they've missed deadlines for finalizing a deal and starting a special session.

Danielle Dart works at the Minnesota History Center, where she coordinates education programs for adults.

Dart thought the budget deal would be finalized quickly. But she's getting a bit worried about the delays, and if it means the shutdown won't end soon.

"If it goes longer, I think it's going to get tougher financially," she said. "I mean we're holding off on buying a lot of things.">

"I worry that they'll go back to their original positions," Dart said. "If we don't get it done now and they can't find a compromise based on this, it's difficult to see how they will find a compromise."

Dart and her co-workers have been trying to stay in touch, getting together for budget-stretching potluck meals and outings to the beach.

"Messages and invitations have been flying fast and furious on Facebook, because everyone was feeling sort of anxious and disconnected because work is such a major part of our lives," she said.

Other state employees are less surprised and less anxious that a budget deal hasn't come together all that quickly. Some employees aren't surprised at all.

"You know, I didn't really expect it was going to happen as fast as they said, said Giny Black of Plymouth. "It's very complicated."

Black is a laid-off employee of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"They've got lots to work out. And neither side likes it," Black said. "To be a fly on the wall in the hearing rooms would be very, very interesting.

Black didn't expect a slam dunk budget fix, she does believe a deal will get done, maybe by the end of this week.

Jeanette Leete supervises the groundwater unit at the Department of Natural Resources, when she's not on layoff. Leete's worried about permanent cuts that could be included in a final budget.

"I fear the cuts that are being talked about, and whether I might lose staff and not be able to do the work we thought we were going to be able to do in the coming biennium," Leete said.

With the shutdown in its third week, Leete feels financially OK, but more worried about the final legislation than her own finances.

"I'd like them to do the job well not to hurry it," she said.

Some state employees expect Dayton and the Republicans are rushing to get a budget solution in place.

Kathy Strauch of Cottage Grove works in the property records office at the Department of Natural Resources. She figures a budget fix is coming soon.

"I think there's a lot of pressure on them to approve it," Strauch said.

Others share that perspective and want lawmakers to wrap up a deal to end the prolonged uncertainty about the future.

Mike Lang of Cottage Grove oversees job service programs at workforce centers for the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

"I'm hoping the parties will get their members under control and they'll have something put together to have us back to work soon, after they call a special session." The shutdown has gone on longer than he expected, Lang said.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to work, and not having this big question mark over thing everything," he said.

Dayton and GOP legislative leaders have already signed off on several budget bills.

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