MINNEAPOLIS -- In preparation for a potential shutdown of state government, Minnesota sent layoff notices on Friday to more than 36,000 state workers, according to the governor's office.
With Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature unable to agree on a spending plan, the state could face closing down services on July 1, the start of the fiscal 2012-13 biennium.
Dayton called the notices "a grim reminder of a deadline that is just 20 days away."
"I continue to hope that the Legislature will join me in compromising, in finding a balanced solution to our budget, and in standing up for Minnesotans," the governor said in a statement.
On May 24, Dayton vetoed budget bills passed by the Legislature, which rejected his $37.1 billion, two-year budget and its income-tax hike on wealthy residents to help erase a $5 billion deficit. Republicans instead opted for spending cuts even after Dayton offered to cut down his tax proposal.
On Monday, Republican leaders agreed to match the governor's spending levels for education, public safety and the judiciary.
The governor and leaders continued to negotiate on the budget in the hope of avoiding a shutdown, according to Katharine Tinucci, Dayton's spokeswoman. She added that a state judge will ultimately decide which jobs are critical and should continue during a government shutdown.
The last time that a budget impasse closed portions of Minnesota government was a nine-day shutdown in 2005.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Jan Paschal )
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