State employees return to work and backlogsby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The state government shutdown ended Wednesday with a budget deal, and state employees were already heading back into their offices in St. Paul early Thursday.
Even so, it could be a week or more before state functions return to normal.
Dan Jorgenson, a main frame computer systems analyst, said he wondered how much work had backed up in his absence.
"It's going to be an interesting day," he said, because the IT systems he works on kept going in his absence. "There were some people in my division that were essential. But they've been backlogged with work."
Over at the Department of Human Services, program manager Lori Wren said she was glad to get back to work. Three weeks without pay was difficult, and she said she had to cut back and be prepared for a longer work stoppage.
"I kind of sat tight, ate a lot of corn on the cob and watermelon. It was very inexpensive," she said.
Her colleague, Kathy Tuzzolino, said the uncertainty was difficult.
"I tried to keep myself busy. I tried to keep myself from being angry about the situation," she said. "And I kept thinking, tomorrow's going to be the day I'm going back to work."
That's today, but there's a question mark over job security for state employees in the long run.
The budget bills Gov. Mark Dayton signed Wednesday will likely translate to reduced funding to some departments and cuts to the state workforce of 6 percent.
Officials from the two big unions that represent most of the state's 35,000 employees say they're pleased the shutdown is over and their members can get back to work, but they're still unsure how the budget will affect state employees.
"The state government finance bill does not specify a cut in the state workforce," said Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, which represents 18,000 state employees.
However, Seide expects a 6 percent state workforce reduction, or a loss of about 770 state jobs, could be carried out relatively painlessly. About 850 state workers retire yearly, since 2006.
Some state employees returning to work reflected on the uncertainties, including Laura Duffey, a forestry educator with the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR was among the agencies being cut to help the state resolve the budget deficit.
"I'm still anxious. I don't, I'm not happy with the budget deal and I don't think it's sustaining, so I'm still very anxious about the whole thing."