Budget agreement in Michigan averts 35,000 layoffs

It was a pins-and-needles kind of weekend for Michigan’s state employees.

At about 3:30 p.m. Sept. 28, 35,000 of the state’s 53,000 employees received pink slips, including 1,700 employees who work in the Information Technology Department. Only 25 IT employees who supported critical functions for state police, prisons and other safety concerns didn’t get layoff notices, said Kurt Weiss, spokesman for the IT department.

“Everybody left Friday afternoon thinking that Monday was going to be a layoff day,” Weiss said. Employees were told to watch the TV news and check the state’s Web portal for developments.

Michigan’s state legislators reached a budget agreement around 4:50 a.m. this morning that ended the government shutdown, Weiss said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm ordered state employees to report for their scheduled shifts today.

The state House and Senate passed bills that would give lawmakers an extra month to eliminate a $1.75 billion budget deficit. The legislature passed bills last night that included an income tax increase and an expansion of Michigan’s sales tax to include many previously exempt businesses, such as tanning salons and landscaping.

Michigan’s constitution prohibits spending any money unless the budget is balanced by the beginning of its fiscal year, which starts today.

“We have a deal, an understanding, that we have 30 days to pass all department budgets,” Weiss said. “We anticipate a lot more discussion of budgets.”

Michigan has the nation’s highest level of unemployment, with a jobless rate of 7.4 versus a national average of 4.6 percent. Michigan’s biggest industry, auto manufacturing, has downsized considerably in recent years, laying off tens of thousands of employees.

Trudy Walsh writes for Government Computer News, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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