June 20, 2018
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LePage rescinds layoff notices after federal budget deal signed

Mario Moretto | BDN
Mario Moretto | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage speaks with reporters from his office in the State House on Dec. 19.
By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine state government on Friday rescinded layoff notices that were sent to 58 state employees on Dec. 13.

Gov. Paul LePage said the notices were sent to federally funded employees in anticipation of another possible federal government shutdown. But with a bipartisan budget deal signed into law Thursday, the specter of shutdown is gone.

The rescind letter was sent by Don Williams, state human resources director, who thanked the 58 employees for their “patience, understanding and professionalism while we worked through the uncertainty concerning the latest federal budget situation.”

Dozens of state workers were laid off during the shutdown in October. As part of the deal to reopen government after the 16-day October shutdown, Congress gave itself a Jan. 15 deadline to pass a two-year budget agreement or face another closure. The House passed a compromise budget bill on Dec. 12, and the Senate followed suit on Dec. 18. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 26.

LePage opposed a second shutdown as much as he opposed the first, but said he was required to send the layoff notices per the state employees union contract “even in circumstances like these, where there is a strong possibility that the notice will not be needed.”

Maine State Employee Association President Ginette Rivard said LePage could have waited to see what happened with the budget, and accused the governor of trying to upset state workers unnecessarily.

The dispute was an echo of the tense dispute during and immediately after the October shutdown, when the governor and union held a series of meetings over how to handle layoffs, displacement and recall rights, and back pay after Congress shut off the flow of federal dollars for 16 days.

In the letter Friday, Williams acknowledged the stress experienced by state workers who had received layoff notices, and assured them that any reference to a layoff would be deleted from their employment records.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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