Minnesota mails layoff notices to state workers as possible July 1 shutdown looms

More than 37,000 Minnesota state workers are receiving layoff notices Tuesday that warn of a July 1 state government shutdown if lawmakers are unable to strike a budget deal before then.

Under its labor contracts and compensation plans, the state must issue the layoff notices one month before a potential shutdown. Gov. Tim Walz said he hoped the warning is only a formality and that the Legislature would agree to a budget before the end of the month.

"This past year has been unbelievably challenging, and I'm sorry that the budget situation at the Legislature causes additional stress and uncertainty," Walz wrote in a letter to state employees.

The most recent government shutdown happened in 2011. A partial shutdown occurred in 2005.

State workers are not paid during a government shutdown. They are eligible to collect unemployment benefits.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Republicans who control the Senate are not aiming for a shutdown. Gazelka pointed to a 2017 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that requires government to fully shut down instead of what happened in 2011, when many agencies deemed "essential" kept operating.

"It's much more serious (now)," Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in an interview. "There's a lot of good work going on both from the Senate and the House, so that leads me to believe we will get done. But it's never easy."

In a separate interview, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said she was confident that lawmakers would avoid an impasse later this month.

"This is not a new chain of events for the state budget to take longer to craft. Unfortunately, this is becoming routine," said Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. She said four of the 14 budget bills had been "completely finalized" and expected to have most of the bills posted publicly by Friday in time for possible hearings next week.

Walz and top lawmakers agreed to the framework for a $52 billion budget deal before the legislative session ended May 17, though many issues remained unresolved.

Walz would have to call lawmakers back for a June special session to pass the budget before the deadline. No negotiations have happened in public, with only two conference committees holding open meetings since the May 17 adjournment.