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No budget deal this week would mean layoff notices Monday for thousands of state employees

Post by Melissa Santos / The Olympian on June 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
June 21, 2013 8:02 am

CAPITOL CAMPUS BUILDINGS 13010301 TEOThousands of state employees may receive temporary layoff warnings Monday if state lawmakers don’t approve a budget before then, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said Thursday.

The notices would warn employees that they will be temporarily laid off starting July 1 if if the Legislature fails to finalize a budget by June 30, said Mary Alice Heuschel, the governor’s chief of staff.

The planned layoff notices are part of the state’s contingency plan for how to deal with a potential government shutdown, which would affect roughly two-thirds of government agencies next month if lawmakers’ don’t reach a budget deal.

Most state employee contracts require five to seven days of notice before a furlough or layoff, Heuschel said, which would mean notice would need to go out Monday – before the Legislature’s deadline to pass a budget.

If no deal is reached, 34 state agencies would completely shut down July 1, while 24 would partially shut down and 25 would remain open, Heuschel said.

That means state programs providing care for the disabled, elderly and mentally ill would be suspended, while all state parks would close, according to a memorandum released by Inslee’s Office of Financial Management Thursday.

Additionally, newly arrested criminals would be kept in county jails and several construction projects would have to be suspended.

Officials emphasized that they are still hopeful that lawmakers will finalize a budget in time to avert a July 1 shutdown, but they are trying to be prepared.

“Just like an earthquake or any other kind of state emergency, we need to have a comprehensive plan in case this occurs,” Heuschel said. “This is absolutely the last thing that the governor or any of us would like to happen.”

Heuschel said that state officials aren’t certain exactly how many employees would have to receive layoff notices, but “it is fair to say thousands.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers said Thursday that they are working hard to avoid a shutdown and are hoping to agree on a spending plan before Monday.

“We’re making progress, and we should be done and out of here by Sunday,” said Booker Stallworth, a spokesman for the Senate’s majority coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats.

House budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said that the contingency plans developed by the Office of Financial Management ideally won’t need to be implemented.

“Hopefully that information will be interesting, but not useful,” Hunter said Thursday.

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