updated 7/8/2007 2:42:07 AM ET 2007-07-08T06:42:07

Legislators returned to the Capitol on Saturday with less than two days to agree on a state budget before a partial government shutdown that would furlough thousands of workers and curtail some services.

Negotiators said no new talks had been scheduled between the Legislature and aides to Gov. Ed Rendell, but they said they expected to meet later in the day.

A stalemate between the Democratic governor and the narrowly divided Legislature over a $27 billion-plus budget and some of Rendell’s top priorities has showed no sign of easing.

If Sunday ends without a deal in place, more than 24,000 state workers whose jobs are not deemed to be essential to health and safety will be furloughed without pay at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The union that represents many of those workers filed a lawsuit overnight challenging the furlough policy. A state court on Saturday denied the request for a restraining order, which would have halted the furloughs.

A hearing was set for 9 a.m. Monday, nine hours after the order is to go into effect.

Republicans register protest
Republican legislators who represent districts around Harrisburg gathered on the Capitol steps to register their protest.

Sen. Jeffrey Piccola, a Republican, said Rendell is using the threat of furloughs to put pressure on legislators in budget negotiations.

“The governor is using all the tools in his arsenal, which are furloughs and layoffs,” Piccola said.

A spokesman for Rendell disputed that assertion.

“It comes as somewhat of a surprise that the Republicans have waited until the 7th of July to realize that not having passed a budget has ramifications,” spokesman Chuck Ardo said.

The state’s five slot-machine casinos went to Commonwealth Court on Friday to try to prevent being closed when Revenue Department workers are furloughed, and two Republican state senators asked the same court to enforce subpoenas issued to two of Rendell’s aides seeking information about the casino shutdown.

Republicans said they are frustrated at the scope of Rendell’s proposals including massive new funding for transportation, alternative energy programs and public schools — an ambitious agenda that they said continues to grow. “Every time you get close, he wants something new,” Philadelphia Rep. John Perzel said Friday.

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