Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo
The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Ed Rendell late Sunday ordered a range of state government services shut down and placed about a third of the state work force on indefinite unpaid furlough after frantic last-minute negotiations failed to break a budget stalemate.
Rendell, appearing outside his Capitol office, said the shutdown would go forward but he and legislators will continue to work toward a deal.
“Let me say to our hardworking and dedicated state employees, we worked as hard as we could today,” Rendell said. But, he said, negotiations and serious consideration of his priorities, which he maintains must be passed along with a state spending plan, began too late.
“We didn’t start early enough,” Rendell said. “I think everybody was at fault.”
Pennsylvanians will be unable to take driver’s license tests, state-run museums will be shuttered and casinos will have to stop taking bets today. Highway maintenance and a range of permitting and licensing functions will be stopped or severely curtailed, and the lights illuminating the Capitol’s dome were to be turned off.
At Gifford Pinchot State Park in Lewisberry, 70-year-old retiree Janice Sorgen and her family are among those who will have to vacate the park's 10 cabins and 100 camping spots first thing this morning.
“To do it in this manner is ridiculous,” said Sorgen, who drove 500 miles from Fort Wayne, Ind., for a family vacation. “They can just pay us for driving down here and driving back.”
Refunds are available to people who request them, said park manager Bill Rosevear.
The state remained without a budget for an eighth day as the battle of wills dragged on between Rendell, a Democrat, and Republicans in control of the state Senate.
As the clock ticked, gamblers still trying their luck at Philadelphia Park Racetrack and Casino in Bensalem, just outside Philadelphia, called the showdown nothing more than politics.
“These casinos are supposed to be here to make money, to lower taxes and create jobs. And now they’re using them as a threat against each other,” Beth Rompert said.