November 18, 2018
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LePage has no immediate plans for layoffs in response to shutdown

Micky Bedell | BDN
Micky Bedell | BDN
Gov. Paul LePage talks to the people gathered on the Blaine House lawn for a maple tree tapping ceremony on a cold day in mid-March 2017.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s office said Monday that it has no plans this week to lay off state employees whose salaries are federally funded during the U.S. government shutdown that began at midnight Friday.

For now, it looks as if the shutdown’s impact on Maine will be lighter than during the last federal shutdown in 2013, when the Republican governor laid off more than 50 federally funded state workers who make disability determinations.

But that came in October at the beginning of the federal fiscal year, so a lot of federal money hadn’t yet been sent to state programs. LePage spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said the timing of this shutdown was a factor in keeping employees around this week and not issuing layoff notices.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and making contingency plans as needed to minimize any effects if the shutdown extends longer than a week,” she said in an email.

[Congress can easily avoid shutdowns. Here’s why it doesn’t. ]

Mary Anne Turowski, political director for the Maine State Employees Association, said Monday that state workers’ union contract calls for at least five days’ notice before a layoff could take effect.

The union criticized LePage for laying off workers during the last shutdown. Turowski said that if layoffs are eventually considered, the state has “other options.” For example, the Legislature is now in session, so the state could pay federally funded salaries until the government reopens.

The shutdown stretched into its third day Monday amid a standoff between leading Republicans and Democrats. The latter party is holding out for a legislative fix protecting young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally, but Republicans say there’s more time to negotiate that.

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