The Potluck

State layoff notices go out as budget negotiations drag on

By: - June 1, 2021 1:28 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul as the sun sets on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Photo by Tony Webster.

Minnesota state government employees received layoff notices this week, a preemptive move as state officials begin the process of planning for a potential government shutdown if political leaders fail to approve a new two-year budget by June 30. 

It’s still quite early, and the notices are a formality as legislative leaders and DFL Gov. Tim Walz continue to hash out a budget largely out of public view. A select group of lawmakers are privately negotiating the details of a new $52 billion budget. 

Friday was the deadline for budgets for various areas of government to be finalized, but only a few budgets were done by then, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said on Friday. 

Budgets for higher education and commerce were finalized, and a few provisions had been kicked up to top leadership and the governor to work out, she said. 

It appeared Tuesday that at least some budgets may still be left unfinished by day’s end. 

Asked Friday if lawmakers had blown their May 28 deadline for budget spreadsheets, Hortman likened it to a college student who has extra time to finish an assignment with a Friday deadline before a long holiday weekend because the professor won’t be reading the homework until Tuesday morning.

State Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said in a text he was doubtful the public safety budget would be done on Tuesday, saying he anticipated a “long day.”

“Still exchanging offer ideas,” he said. “Hopeful. Will be circling to speak with law enforcement again. Talks cordial.”

Layoff notices go out

Minnesota — no stranger to secret negotiations and government shutdowns — is notifying state employees that some of them might be placed on unpaid leave or laid off if a new budget isn’t enacted by July 1. 

“I am hopeful that this process is just a formality,” said a letter from Walz to state government employees. “Nonetheless, we are obligated to notify you of this possibility.” 

Previously, state government shut down partially over budget disagreements in 2005 and 2011.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.