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HARRISBURG — Legislators yesterday pushed to agree on a state budget before a partial government shutdown today that would furlough thousands of workers and curtail some services.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, said Saturday he was “not optimistic now” that a furlough could be avoided.

The stalemate between the governor and the narrowly divided legislature over a $27 billion-plus budget and some of Mr. Rendell’s top priorities showed no sign of easing yesterday.

Without a deal, more than 24,000 state workers whose jobs are not deemed to be essential to health and safety will be furloughed without pay today.

The union representing state workers went to court challenging the furlough policy, but a court Saturday denied its request for a restraining order halting the furloughs.

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


Missing rafter sought after major flooding

DALLAS — Search teams yesterday continued combing the swollen Trinity River for a missing rafter as drenching rain that has pounded the state for nearly three weeks held off.

Meanwhile, the death toll from storms that have battered Texas since last month climbed to 16 Saturday with the recovery of another victim.

The 26-year-old missing man was on a rubber raft that capsized Friday on the Trinity.

Another man on the raft had to swim about 300 yards against the swift current to safety after their raft flipped. Neither man wore a life jacket.

On Saturday, President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for Oklahoma, freeing federal funds to aid two counties ravaged by the flooding.

From wire dispatches and staff reports