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Pennsylvania Government's Partial Shutdown Ends

The budget impasse that existed in the Pennsylvania government after a deal was struck between the legislator and the governor on Monday night More than 24,000 state workers returned to work after they were sent back home without pay.

"This is an agreement where all sides can say that they achieved some of their goals, and that's probably a good budget agreement," Rendell said, declaring himself "very satisfied with where we came out."

The deal addresses some of Rendell's health care and energy initiatives but will not impose the surcharge on electricity use the governor had sought, said Sen. Vince Fumo, ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

Gov. Ed Rendell shut down the Pennsylvania government late Sunday over a budget stalemate with the Legislature that partly hinges on his energy plan for the state.

Scores of state parks, state-run museums and driver-license offices around the state were shuttered Monday after Gov. Ed Rendell took the unprecedented action.

Monday morning, the shutdown set in as the partisan battle of wills between the Democratic governor and Republicans who control the Senate entered the ninth day of the new fiscal year. Lacking an approved state budget, the state has lost the authority to spend money on nonessential services.

Without a budget, the state has lost the authority to spend money on "noncritical" services and employees. Highway maintenance, document-processing services and a range of permitting and licensing functions were curtailed or stopped altogether. Even the lights illuminating the Capitol dome were to be turned off. br>
Only critical services such as health care for the poor, state police and prisons remain in operation. br>
The shutdown also has threatened to close the state's five slot-machine casinos, although a state judge was expected to rule Sunday night on whether to keep the facilities open until casino owners cou ld argue their case that they should stay open. br>
The second-term Democratic governor blamed Republicans, who control the Senate, for the potential furloughs, accusing them of dragging their feet on priorities he asked them to consider. Those include massive new funding for public school programs, transportation and alternative energy, as well as measures to cut health care costs.

The spending plan was estimated to be around $27 billion. Republicans contend that Rendell is using the threat of furloughs as a negotiating tool to get them to sign off on a sprawling energy policy that not only needs more public debate, but is peripheral to the budget. br>
The Rendell administration lowered the reported total of employees on furlough, from more than 24,000 to 23,562. Their wages are $3.5 million a day, according to Rendell's Office of Administration. The furloughed workers won't be paid for the time they are off but will continue to be covered by the state's health plan, at least temporarily. br>
In state Commonwealth Court on Monday, lawyers for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents most of the displaced employees, and two smaller unions, urged a judge to halt the furloughs. br>
Senior Judge Barry Feudale had promised to issue a decision Tuesday.

The unions contend that the Rendell administration's classification of state employees into "critical" and "noncritical" groups violated collective bargaining laws and that it did not provide lists of noncritical employees until recent days.


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