Mainers prepare for shutdown day

Posted July 02, 2009, at 10:41 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The vast majority of state offices will be closed — and most state workers will stay home without pay — on Monday in the first of 10 government shutdown days slated for this fiscal year.

State offices throughout Maine also will be closed today in observance of the Independence Day holiday.

The shutdown days came as lawmakers, faced with declining revenues, earlier this year struggled to balance the 2-year, $5.8 billion state budget. The new fiscal year began Wednesday.

In all, the budget signed in May by Gov. John Baldacci included 20 furlough days — 10 for each of the next two fiscal years. The shutdown days aim to save $11.2 million this fiscal year and $14.5 million the next.

Emergency services personnel, such as state police and game wardens, as well as some public health employees will remain on the job both Friday and Monday. Additionally, Maine’s state parks and historic sites will be staffed both days and will offer the full range of services, including lifeguards and park rangers.

Maine Forest Service personnel will also continue to provide law enforcement and forest protection during the two days.

But Baldacci sought to remind residents that those services are exceptions, and most state offices will be closed during the shutdown.

“Please plan ahead for any services you may need from state agencies during this and the other state government shutdown days,” Baldacci said in a statement. “When scheduling the days, every effort has been made to reduce the impact to Maine people, businesses and communities.”

State employees are not paid for the 20 furlough days, and employees who must work on shutdown days are generally required to take another day off without pay. In addition to the furlough days, state employees will also have to help pay the costs of their health insurance and will go without merit or longevity raises during the next two years.

Baldacci spokesman David Farmer said the governor’s $70,000 salary is set in the Constitution but that he has agreed to reimburse the state treasury for the equivalent of the 10 shutdown days.

Farmer said Baldacci does not plan to be in the office on Monday but will be in touch with staff.

Most of the shutdown days are timed to coincide with holiday weekends, such as Labor Day, Christmas and President’s Day.

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