ST. PAUL, Minn. – The first partial government shutdown in Minnesota history ended early Saturday as Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a temporary spending plan and lawmakers agreed on the outline of a two-year budget.
“I’m pleased to announce agreement has been reached by the legislative leadership to put Minnesota back to work,” Pawlenty announced around 2 a.m.
The Legislature overwhelmingly approved the “lights on” measure to send 8,900 furloughed state employees back to their jobs by restoring funding until Thursday.
Lawmakers now have until Wednesday night to hash out the final details of the two-year budget or risk another shutdown – but that’s considered unlikely.
Jim Monroe, who heads a union that represents 3,120 of the idled workers, said it’s too soon to let down the guard entirely.
“I feel a little bit better, but until we get to Wednesday, and I see those bills passed, I am a little bit concerned,” Monroe said. “We’ve had so many near-deals. But I feel better about this one.”
Nearly one-fifth of the state work force had been told to stay home and use either vacation time or go without pay as lawmakers hash out the budget. The shutdown also curtailed state-funded services ranging from new driver’s license applications to job counseling for refugees.